August 17, 2010

As I type this, the national pissing contest regarding Judge Vaughn Walker’s decision overturning California’s anti-gay-marriage Proposition 8 is the top news story on both Yahoo! and Google.

Back in 2008, amid a coast-to-coast smörgåsbord of gubernatorial, senatorial, and congressional races, the only American political campaign that outspent the battle over Proposition 8 was the presidential election.

Obviously, gay marriage is a piping-hot political issue that intimately and deeply affects the daily lives of most Americans…right?

Quick example: In early 2008, when four California judges overturned Proposition 22″€”which had defined marriage as strictly between a man and a woman and was passed in 2000 by 61 percent of voters”€”an estimated 18,000 gay couples were legally wed before Proposition 8 passed and brought down the curtain again later that year.

18,000 couples. That’s 36,000 people. Seeing as how California in 2008 hosted over 38 million residents, we”€™re talking about something that directly affected fewer than ONE IN A THOUSAND Californians.

Granted, California’s monogamous homosexuals only had six months in which to avail themselves of judicially sanctioned nuptials. If they had been permitted to marry for, say, a decade, we may have seen the stats shoot up so high that nearly one in a hundred Californians was involved in a gay marriage.

Initiatives seeking to legalize gay marriage have been placed on the ballot in thirty-one states and have never passed. Never. But as in California, this has not prevented judges and other officials from sniffing disdainfully at the public’s will and ramming through various versions of what amounts to legislative reacharound.

Proposition 8’s wording was simple, seeking only to insert the following line into California’s constitution: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.

That line is short enough that you could post it on Twitter and still have 63 characters remaining. I don”€™t see anything there about gays being perverts or Christians being bigots. 

Of course, any issue involving fundamentalist Christians or militant gays, even individually, is bound to spark and crackle with emotionally loaded rhetoric and puerile drama. But when you pair these two groups as warring opponents in a Death Cage Match over how basic cultural morality is defined, you get the sort of underhanded propaganda tactics and sanctimonious street theater that defined the battle over Proposition 8.

Prop 8’s supporters raised $39.9 million for their cause. Estimates suggest that the Mormons came out stormin”€™ and ponied up anywhere from 30 to 70 percent of that total. Also reppin”€™ against gay marriage were the Knights of Columbus and various organizations with the word “Family” in their name. A cursory review of campaign propaganda reveals that it mostly sidestepped Fred Phelps-level psycho-homophobia, although it was not above issuing tacky commercials in which a little girl asks her gay-male parents where babies come from. There was also a minor scandal in which Prop 8 supporters sent out letters to thirty “No on 8” donors threatening to publish their names if they didn”€™t also donate funds to support the measure.

The “No on 8” legions raised $43.3 million from entities such as the ACLU, workers”€™ unions, and organizations with words such as “Gay” and “Equality” in their names. Several Hollywood stars donated their money, time, and holiness to the cause. The battle was framed as one that pitted “equality” and the “right to love” against the “hatred” and “bald-faced bigotry” of the “frightening people with frightening ideas” who populated rural California. And proving that they were every bit as willing to resort to cheap hysterics as the Christians, there were things such as a TV ad depicting Mormons as stormtroopers busting into your house to tear up your “rights.”

“Gay marriage, ironically, tends to remind me of wedding-crashing. There’s an intrusive quality where it seems as if someone’s barging into and trying to claim a cultural tradition they didn”€™t invent.”

To me, the fag-bashers seemed a bit more well-behaved than the homos this time around. Not only did the pro-gay contingent match their opponents”€™ dirty tricks by publishing the names of Yes on 8 donors, one group published a map of the names and home addresses of San Francisco residents who”€™d dared to support the measure. Several Yes on 8 donors reported verbal harassment and incidents of vandalism. Mormon and Catholic churches were defaced. After Fresno Mayor Alan Autry publicly spoke in support of Prop 8, he received death threats. 

Proposition 8 passed on the same night that America elected its first somewhat-black president. Exit polls revealed an interesting racial dynamic to the voting”€”whites were almost evenly split on the measure, Latinos tilted slightly in favor of it, and blacks supported Prop 8 to the tune of about 70 percent. It is mathematically possible that blacks proved to be the tipping point that allowed Proposition 8 to pass. On Election Eve, there were reports of anti-black incidents throughout très-gay West Hollywood.

Lesbian activist Robin Tyler, rather than distancing herself and her cause from some of its proponents”€™ more juvenile behavior, announced on the California Capitol’s steps that Prop 8 supporters had “no right to complain about any physical and verbal attacks they’ve encountered since election day.”

That’s the way progressives always seem to fight the “hate””€”with physical and verbal attacks.

As I”€™ve always understood it, married couples receive certain tax benefits based on the idea that they”€™ll procreate and raise little taxpayers for the state’s benefit. It seems no more complicated than that. Otherwise, I”€™m not sure why the state would even want to be involved in the whole sordid business of love.

The way tax laws are currently written, married DINKs in many cases pay more taxes than if either partner had been single”€”this is known euphemistically as the “marriage penalty.” So I can”€™t see how additional taxation would be much of an economic incentive for gay couples, most of whom are childless, to marry. Where couples would stand to benefit under gay marriage involves things such as health-insurance coverage and Social Security benefits. 

Still, such perks seem piddling when contrasted with the amount of money, the level of passion, and the degree of attention paid to this topic.

That’s because I don”€™t think this issue is primarily about money. I think it’s a pseudo-religious culture war being waged by two extremist minority factions.

This is a simplistic clash of fanatical belief systems, mutually exclusive in their premises, about how society should be ordered. Members of both sides seem desperately to want to reshuffle society so that the other side ceases to exist. Both sides want the right to define how society defines morality. Both sides are oblivious to the fact that, despite their aesthetic differences, they both spit out enough sanctimony to make even God vomit. And if my suspicions are correct, neither side represents the majority of Americans.

The battle over gay marriage, loud and bloody as it may be, is a cultural Super Bowl in which most Americans don”€™t even sit on the sidelines”€”they hang outside of the stadium at a tailgate party, utterly disinterested in what’s going on inside.

Judge Vaughn Walker, who on August 4th ruled that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional, is said to be one of only three federal judges who is openly gay. While I don”€™t believe this automatically biases him in this case, I feel the tone of his 138-page ruling reveals someone who is almost hopelessly biased toward one side of this culture war.

Walker’s ruling repeatedly mentions slavery and hate crimes, although it fails to explain their relevancy. With an obviously closed mind, Walker writes that some ideas about gay marriage are “accepted beyond serious debate.” He says that the “time has passed” when “genders were seen as having distinct roles in society and marriage.” He says that traditional concepts of marriage were based “on antiquated and discredited notions of gender,” such as, I suppose, that famous ancient myth about men having penises and women having vaginas. He concludes with a nakedly speculative statement that “Many of the purported interests identified by proponents [of Prop 8] are nothing more than a fear or unarticulated dislike of same-sex couples.”

It’s sort of the gay version of “call them racists.”

Walker repeatedly expresses his opinion that denying gays the right to marriage socially stigmatizes them and hurts their feelings. He quotes a 45-year-old lesbian who complains that “I have been in love with a woman for 10 years and I don”€™t have a word to tell anybody about that.” He quotes the same woman as saying that legalizing gay marriage would make her feel included “in the social fabric.”

Marriage, Walker insists, is “not simply a word.”

Sorry, fella. It’s simply a word. And Proposition 8 was simply about how to legally define that word.

Walker insists that the main issue here is equality and that “religious views form the only basis for a belief that same-sex couples are different from opposite-sex couples.”

I would argue that it’s impossible to argue equality when you don”€™t even have equivalency. Gay marriage and straight marriage are not equivalent for the following reasons, none of which has anything to do with religious views:

1) They involve different combinations of genitalia.

2) Only one such combination is able to produce offspring.

3) Throughout world history in countless secular frameworks, marriage has been overwhelmingly defined as an institution involving a man and a woman.

What’s perhaps most ironic about the push for gay marriage is that the same people who for decades insisted that the government be kept out of their bedrooms are now inviting the government into their bedrooms. If that’s their wish, then I believe they deserve equal treatment. If the straights receive financial benefits for being married (as a married straight, I still haven”€™t figured out what those financial benefits are), then it’s only fair that the gays receive them, too. If everyone pays into the system equally, everyone should derive equal benefits.

But ultimately, I believe in a world where none of us is forced to pay for what anyone else does with their genitals. I think the government should stay out of our underwear and definitely should have no say in matters of love.

Just as there’s a separation of church and state, perhaps there should be a much clearer separation of the concepts of “marriage” and “estate.” People, no matter where they stuff their genitals or have their holes filled, should be entitled to enter into civil unions that dictate specific economic arrangements regarding one another.

That should handle the “estate” part. 

All that leaves is the struggle over the word “marriage.”

Gay marriage, ironically, tends to remind me of wedding-crashing. There’s an intrusive quality where it seems as if someone’s barging into and trying to claim a cultural tradition they didn”€™t invent. Perhaps a funnier analogy would be white rappers”€”gays seem as if they”€™re trying to inhabit a world that clearly wasn”€™t invented by or for them.

I mean, you don”€™t see straight men demanding equal representation in Judy Garland fan clubs nationwide. You don”€™t see them trying to reclaim the word “queer” or attempting to redefine felching.

On the other hand, if you successfully redefine marriage, you automatically stigmatize a huge portion of our society”€”by every existing poll, a majority of society”€”as haters and bigots. That doesn”€™t seem quite fair.

Bill Maher once asked the lispy, frumpy gasbag Barney Frank whether he”€™d favor the idea of granting gays 100% percent equal rights in civil arrangements so long as the straights could hang onto the word “marriage.” Frank said he favored such a proposal.

Listen up, ye gays”€”you already stole the word “gay” from the straights. Trying to steal another word, especially one involving such a deep-rooted and ubiquitous cultural institution that is almost universally associated with heterosexuality, seems selfish and bratty to me. It stinks a little bit of cultural imperialism. Show how much you truly believe in “tolerance” and let the breeders have that word.

I don”€™t see anyone complaining that we need to legally break down the barriers between a baptism and a Bar Mitzvah. So all I”€™d suggest here is that gay people let the crusty old superstitious redneck breeders keep the word “marriage.” You”€™ll get all the same legal benefits, but just let them have that word. 

You can have your very own word”€”I”€™ve seen terms such as “homarriage,” “fagamy,” and “gay for life” bandied about”€”but I”€™ll leave that up to you.

What I found most troubling about Walker’s ruling was its repeated insistence that gays somehow have a legal right to feel accepted. There was an overabundance of concern about “stigma,” as if gay culture doesn”€™t itself routinely demean and stigmatize aspects of straight society. Personally, I liked the gays a lot more when they weren”€™t purposely trying to be mainstream and didn’t suffer from the delusion that everyone has a constitutional right to be liked. 

Perhaps what would be most upsetting to America’s gay militants is the suggestion that most of America does not seethe and writhe with hatred for homosexuals. The gay-pride movement seems founded on the assumption that America is a repressed reptilian hotbed of monolithic anti-homo hatred, while the drab truth may be that most Americans really don”€™t care. It might ruffle more than a few pink feathers to inform gay America that the rest of the country couldn”€™t care less what you do with your holes, but we”€™re a little annoyed with the way you act so holy about it.

With apologies to all the size queens out there, this seems like such a tiny issue. An informal poll of my friends on the issue of gay marriage yielded a near-unanimous chorus of silent shrugs. What you do with your genitals is, you know, what you do with your genitals, and as long as we don”€™t have to smell it, we are utterly unconcerned.

But if the extremists on both sides of this issue don”€™t stop their whining, we hope your various gods”€”whether those deities be prudish or polymorphously perverse”€”send you all to hell.


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