Furor over Gay Marriage

The Insane Ravings of the Marriage Police

Revolutionary Worker #1210, August 17, 2003, posted at rwor.org

Question at July 30 press conference: "What's your view on homosexuality?"

President George W. Bush: "I am mindful that we are all sinners. And I caution those who may try to take a speck out of their neighbor's eye when they've got a log in their own. I think it's very important for our society to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming country.

On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise on an issue such as marriage. And that's really where the issue is headed here in Washington, and that is, the definition of marriage. I believe in the sanctity of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman and I think we ought to codify that one way or the other. We've got lawyers looking at the best way to do that."


The most powerful political figure in the world is calling for "codifying" traditional views of family into new federal law. This literally means using the state apparatus (including legislature, courts and police) to enforce these conservative views of marriage and sex roles--and mobilizing the authority of the state to oppose any official acceptance of other relationships.

Every word here violates the separation of church and state.

Bush claims his god made clear what kind of marriage should be imposed, and Bush intends to use the federal government to do it. By saying that a particular form of marriage has "sanctity" (endorsement from some supernatural being), Bush means that a specific traditional conservative view of man-woman marriage is demanded by his god.

Bush states he sees no "compromise" on this--no compromise, apparently, with all the millions of people who don't share his view of "the family," and certainly no compromise with gay people who deserve equal treatment for their loving relationships.

To see how far U.S. politics has fallen into the grip of religious fundamentalism--just note that even when Bush opens (momentarily) with a posture of tolerance, his statement treats the whole issue as a matter of "sin" (the idea that morality is defined by the dictates of a god).

In other words, conservative Christian dogma is now presented as the framework in which this country is supposed to discuss matters of social policy. And the particular doctrines that Bush then proposes as state policy are the ravings of the fundamentalist Christian-fascists.

Everything about this is wrong and reactionary: Despite the hysterical claims of right-wing forces, there is no "homosexual agenda" that seeks to replace heterosexual marriage with "deviant" alternatives. And, as the president raves on, it is important to realize that the "traditional family"--which is based on male domination--is an institution riddled with abuse, dependency, and enforced social isolation for women.

Granting gay couples the legal status of marriage is a simple forward step toward equality (and would end the unfair denial of right to inherit, adopt, visit each other in hospitals, share insurance and publicly celebrate their unions).

The denial of this, the relentless slander about "perversion" and "sin"--is part of imposing a much more regimented and reactionary society, where everyone will be much more tightly scrutinized and judged.

The Ugly Tides of Official Politics

The U.S. is knee deep in a brutal war to control Iraq. It has sent its troops to a dozen new countries and proclaimed its right to launch "preemptive war" anywhere on the planet. The federal government has grabbed vast new police powers for itself, disregarded basic civil liberties on a massive scale, and declared that the "homefront" should be treated as a permanent battle zone. The U.S. economy is floundering--millions are unemployed, the rest are job-scared, and the exploding costs of war have produced a profound financial crisis for social programs and state governments across the country.

And yet, in the middle of all this, the official presidential political season opens with a shocking discovery: The American Family and Man-Woman Marriage are in mortal danger! An aggressive, state- enforced "codifying" of marriage and public morality are needed. Bring on the new laws, saddle up the marriage police.

What a calculated and reactionary farce!

On one level, Bush is obviously revving up the political juices of his particular partisan social base-- some of the most bigoted and backward people on the planet Earth.

Leaders of the religious right responded with enthusiasm. Sandy Rios, president of Concerned Women for America, said: "America desperately needs such leadership in this dark hour of depravity."

There has been a growing push within Republican circles to make the suppression of gay and lesbian rights a cutting edge issue in the coming elections. And they are clearly seeking to paint the Democratic Party as the "party of sodomy"--pointing to the presidential campaign of Howard Dean, who was governor of Vermont when same-sex civil unions were legalized there.

Last month, when the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law criminalizing sex acts between two men (the so-called "sodomy" law)--Supreme Court Justice Scalia responded with a startlingly thuggish dissent, accusing the court's majority of embracing "the homosexual agenda." He bluntly described any attempt to legalize same-sex relations as part of a "culture war" within the U.S.

Following Scalia's lead, the leading Republican Senator Bill Frist came out for an amendment that would prevent any further judicial actions favoring gay and lesbian relations--by literally embedding the fundamentalist Christian notion of "man-woman marriage" into the Constitution itself. Pennsylvania Senator Rick Santorum raised a flag of raw bigotry by equating the legalizing of same-sex intimacy with the legalization of incest or bestiality.

When Bush called for codifying this "man-woman marriage" into law--he was putting his own "spin" on this--endorsing federal laws but not a constitutional amendment, urging no "compromise" over gay marriage while pretending to encourage restraint among his followers.

We have a pattern before us: Two years ago, Bush called for respect for Muslim people after 9/11, and then unleashed racial profiling and roundups. Now he mumbles about "respect each individual" as he calls for new laws reinforcing discrimination against homosexuals. He wants to calm the fears of the political middle ground, while he feeds red meat to the reactionary hard core.

After Bush's press conference, this anti-gay marriage crusade got further international endorsement: the Catholic Church called for a worldwide political campaign against acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships. In a detailed document issued by the Vatican, Catholic legislators around the world were warned that their church considered it "gravely immoral" to vote for gay marriage or gay adoption.

(As if to underscore the profound hypocrisy of all this, that same week CBS news exposed a previously secret church policy document, written for the Vatican in 1962, that orders all bishops around the world to handle cases of priestly rape of children and sex with animals "in the most secretive way...restrained by a perpetual silence"--the threat of exclusion from the church (and therefore heaven, according to Catholic doctrine) was to be used to prevent anyone (including the victims) from speaking out. Few things capture the perversity of traditional morality more sharply than this simultaneous cover-up of patriarchal sexual abuse and condemnation of loving relationships formed by same-sex couples.)

Meanwhile, an all-too-familiar "trickle-down effect" went into motion: After Bush staked out an extreme position, key Democratic leaders twisted in an agonizing way--embracing much of the fundamentalist madness, while offering the usual pious amendments and exceptions.

After Bush called for federalized anti-gay discrimination "codified" in law, the leading Senate Democrat Tom Daschle announced: "No changes necessary, in my view. You've got it in law today." Daschle went on to explain that the 1996 Defense of Marriage Act (signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton) already denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allowed states to ignore same-sex unions licensed elsewhere.

Reading directly from that federal law, Daschle told reporters: "The word `marriage' means only a legal union between one man and one woman as a husband and wife, and the word `spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband or a wife."

"You can't get any clearer than that," Daschle said, adding that he supports the wording of that law.

Changing the Country's Terrain

It would be a mistake to view all of this as just the madness of the American political season--something that will blow over.

There has been a sense that gay and lesbian equality was a permanent change that "is arriving" through a slow evolution of acceptance and changes. It is true, and important, that there has been a much broader mass acceptance of open gay relationships--especially among the new generation. It is true that changes have appeared within law and culture.

The old and rarely enforced laws against sodomy were just overturned by the Supreme Court. Corporations have started to recognize "domestic partnerships" and at least one state government has allowed "civil unions" granting gay relationships a legal recognition short of marriage. An openly gay Episcopal clergyman has just been made bishop by his church. Bride 's magazine has run its first feature on same-sex weddings. And millions of people casually watch gay characters and couples on commercial TV (with all the mix of acceptance and stereotyping embodied in something like "Queer as Folk"). Jay Leno even just got a makeover from the cast of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."

But the burst of venom from the White House, from Scalia's bench on the supreme court, and from leading figures of the Senate--all show that there are powerful forces in the U.S. determined to roll back any changes and exploit any acceptance of gay relationships to demand the enforcement of their own, extreme Christian-fascist morality. Gradual acceptance can be driven back by the powerful campaigns to conservatize this country.

In many ways these forces reveal their own goals and motives when they stress, over and over, that enforcing the traditional patriarchal family is a vital part of conservatizing the U.S. as a whole.

They don't just intend to boot "Will & Grace" from TV--they want to fan anti-gay hysteria to tighten all kinds of social norms--to roll back the independence of women (including women's choice), to tighten state and familial control over children (including increasing discipline and brainwashing in schools), they want to eliminate diversity and experimentation, and they want to enshrine all their intolerable norms as models.

It is not an accident that those who have unleashed the Big Brother moves of the Patriot Act also want to legally forbid the acceptance of gay marriages.

And it is not an accident that the same so-called Democratic establishment that embraces the framework of Bush's "war on terror" can't speak a clear sentence in defense of gay equality and acceptance.

This is a time of rapid change--where military crusades abroad are linked to Big Brother crusades at home. This manufactured political hysteria over "gay marriage" got an endorsement from the White House in order to unleash reactionary religious norms as a weapon on the "homefront." It is linked at every point with the whole battle over what kind of lives we will lead and what kind of world we will live in.

This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
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