Last week's article "What's Their Real Problem With Gay Marriage (It's the Gay Part)" by Russell Shorto was unbelievable.
The article was an in-depth exploration of anti-gay-marriage cursaders in Maryland.
The story begins, not surprisingly, in Washington, with a little lobbying group called the Family Research Council. In their (get this) "gift shop", they have, 'neath a plaque "emblazoned with the group's slogan--Defending Family, Faith and Freedom," a shrine to "traditional" marriage: a complete groom's outfit -- tux, tie, fluffy shirt -- and a bridal gown with all the trimmings down to teh dried bouquet.
In May 2003 the heads of 26 conservative organizations, including the Family Research Council, formed an entity, which they called the Arlington Group, to pool resources and come up with a combined strategy for fighting the forces of secularism.
They felt, for example, that Lawrence v. Texas was essentially an "endorsement, at the federal level, of homosexuality itself.
This is what is strange to me. It is as though they have convoluded several issues and actively the constitution as well as the ideals upon which this country was based. They have no regard for separation of church and state. Gay marriage is obviously not an issue of civil rights*. In fact, are pushing for The Church to have more of an influence (hence "fighting the forces of secularism"). But it is, clearly, not just any church they endorse and feel should have priority.
Furthermore, what does this have to do with gay marriage except that homosexuality is not usually condoned by their interpretation of The Church. Of course this is one issue, but why is it their main (if not sole) focus?
But as I learned spending time among the cultural conservatives who are leading the anti-gay-marriage charge, they have their own reasons for doing so, which are based on their reading of the Bible, their views about both homosexuality and the institution of marriage and the political force behind the issue. In the words of Gary Bauer, president of American Values -- one of what is now a total of 61 organizations under the Arlington Group banner, with a combined membership of 60 million -- gay marriage is "the new abortion." He meant that, as with abortion, conservatives see gay marriage as a culture-altering change being implemented by judicial fiat. But gay marriage is also the new abortion in that it is for groups like Bauer's a base-energizing and fund-raising issue of tremendous power.
But for the anti-gay-marriage activists, homosexuality is something to be fought, not tolerated or respected. I found no one among the people on the ground who are leading the anti-gay-marriage cause who said in essence: ''I have nothing against homosexuality. I just don't believe gays should be allowed to marry.'' Rather, their passion comes from their conviction that homosexuality is a sin, is immoral, harms children and spreads disease. Not only that, but they see homosexuality itself as a kind of disease, one that afflicts not only individuals but also society at large and that shares one of the prominent features of a disease: it seeks to spread itself.
The author then goes on to discuss a grass-roots activist, Laura Clark, mother of four, and suburbanite from Catonsville Md. Her husband says: "At the stage of life we're in, its all about family."
[Note that as I write this, I am watching two kids in a kiddy pool and slip-n-slide in my back yard, surrounded by juice boxes and popsicle sticks. I couldn't be any more 'all about family' at this stage in my life.]
From her home, Laura trolls the Internet for news articles and developments, nationally and in teh state, that have to do with same-sex marriae and other issues of concern to the group, like abortion, and then she compiles them into a newsletter that is e-mailed to members. Her sources: The Washington Times, Family Research Council and the Drudge Report.
Marriage seems to be their primary focus for two reasons: opportunism and the importance they place on that particular institution.
1. Opportunism: The various conservative Christian groups leading the anti-gay-marriage charge cooperate in many ways. Local groups with ties to one of the big national organizations may meet as events are heating up in their state. "Sometimes we have coordinated attacks," said Michael Bowman, the director of state legislative relations for Concerned Women for America, a public policy organization based on biblical principles that was founded by Beverly LaHaye, who is married to the best-selling Christian writer Tim LaHaye. "Our local person will be in touch with the Catholic Conference person or with Focus on the Family. They'll create e-mail loops, decide when to hit the pavement." Gay marriage is providing unparalleled momentum for this kind of linkage, Bowman added: "The marriage issue is waking up alliances that never existed. Abortion was never like this."
2. The Institution: To see marriage as in any way a secular or legal union of two individuals is to miss utterly the point and conviction of the Christian forces lined up against gay marriage. As Dobson states in his book: "To put it succinctly, the institution of marriage represents the very foundation of human social order. Everything of value sits on that base. Institutions, governments, religious fervor and the welfare of children are all dependent on its stability." Every activist on the ground I spoke with said something similar. "Marriage was defined thousands of years ago and has served us well," said Rebecca Denning, a retired secretary in southern Maryland who volunteers alongside Evalena Gray. "I think marriage is about procreation and families. And I think we're getting into something that we don't truly understand what the ramifications will be."
To break down this particular institution is to break down society as we know it:
Some on the other side of the issue -- notably Andrew Sullivan -- make the argument that extending the marriage franchise into the gay community will have positive results for everyone: it will encourage gays and lesbians to settle down into stable families, and given that about 40 percent of marriages end in divorce, it will bring new devotees to an ailing institution. The anti-gay-marriage people readily acknowledge that marriage is in a state of crisis, but they counter that the solution isn't to dilute the traditional meaning but to reinforce it. And that meaning, they say, is bound up in biology. "The homosexual community would have us believe that marriage is simply about loving one another," said Rick Bowers of Defend Maryland Marriage. "I say it's about two human beings who are wired completely differently, one with estrogen and one with testosterone, living together in love but with the purpose of procreation. It's a lot deeper than love. So I can't see how someone could look on a same-sex marriage as marriage at all."
Ultimately though, rather than banishing gay marriage, they'd like to, out of love (for sure!) treat the root of the problem: homosexuality itself.
"The Hebrew words for male and female are actually the words for the male and female genital parts," he told me. "The male is the piercer; the female is the pierced. That is the way God designed it. It's unfortunate that homosexuals have taken the moniker 'gay,' because their lifestyle and its consequences are anything but. Look what has happened in the decades since the sexual revolution and acceptance of the gay lifestyle as normal. Viruses have mutated. S.T.D.'s have spread. It shows that when we try to change the natural course of things, what comes out of that is not joy or gayness."
Explaining how homosexuality resembles an insidious disease, Racer said, "If you have a same-gendered union, you have no natural, biological way to propagate your philosophy." So, he explained, it seeks to spread itself by other means, including popular culture. Bryan Simonaire added: "We have to recognize that they have a strategy to propagate their lifestyle. Think back 10 or 20 years ago, when you had the first openly homosexual person on TV. It was shocking to a lot of people. Now it's the norm on television, so you don't have the shock factor. Then they had two men with a passionate kiss on TV. That's the road they're heading down. They have a strategy."
If only it were that easy. Ellen announces she's gay. Jack and Will spout a few one-liners and we're all comfortable with ourselves as promiscuous drug-seeking hedonistic homicidal AIDS transporters with new recruits by the dozens.
As for being stylish, maybe he's right. Maybe pink (as in a pink triangle) IS the new black!
*The fact that civil unions, as well as efforts to extend specific rights and benefits to gay couples, receive significant support in polls suggests that many who object to gay marriage nevertheless see an underlying civil rights issue.