July 22, 2009

America, Meet Mr. & Mr. Smith

From a very early age, I began to take an interest in politics. This might come as a surprise to anyone who knew me in fourth or fifth grade, because I didn’t talk about it much. But I watched the evening news often, and while I didn’t always understand the finer points of Watergate, or the Vietnam War, it nonetheless sparked an interest in me. Why all the fuss over a mere burglary? Why fight a war so far from home?

I was first able to vote in the 1980 election (I voted for Reagan), and from the start I was wary of allowing my ballot to become a slave to a singular narrowly-focused ideology. Oh, you know what I mean: many people have a pet issue such as abortion, or gun control, or Affirmative Action. Whether pro or con, they will only vote for a candidate who shares their dogma in that particular area. Such a naïve, short-sighted approach ignores the big picture and saves them from actually having to think, to evaluate the issues or the candidates fairly.

Sure, I have opinions about these important issues. Plenty. Abortion is murder, no one really needs an AK-47, and it’s equally wrong to favor either the Latino or the Caucasian. But now for the first time I find myself struggling to avoid following a single-issue orthodoxy. And it really bugs me, because I know better.

There’s something about the issue of gay marriage that troubles me greatly. Mind you, I was born and raised in Hollywood, of all places; so I’ve never had that social phobia that afflicts so many. And as a Christian I certainly have my moral reservations; but hey, we’re all sinners in one way or another. No, my concerns about this highly sensitive matter come from a different place that I’m only now beginning to understand.

How did gay marriage become legal here in California? Gavin Newsom, the mayor of San Francisco, simply decided to defy the law and start marrying same-sex couples. He had no legal authority to do so, but he just did as he pleased. And the guys in the long dark robes have supported his cause – at least for now. Activists in other states have gained legal victories by very similar means.

The thing is, we live in a civilized democratic (small-d) society. And if we want to change the law in such a culture, we have tools to do just that. You can write to your councilman, congressman, or state legislator. And if he doesn’t get the job done, you can vote for someone else or even run for office yourself. You can pass a petition to get an initiative placed on the ballot in the next election. Buy a full-page ad in the Los Angeles Times; call in to the Rush Limbaugh Show. There are so many ways that we can all take part in that process.

But the proponents of gay marriage have thus far refused to avail themselves of these legitimate avenues of reform, and they pour contempt on those who do. They don't care what the rest of us think, they have no interest in honest debate or following the rules that everyone else must obey. They just want to win, and one of the best ways to stifle opposition is to deploy inflammatory rhetoric to paint the rest of us as intolerant homophobes.

Yup, let's start the conversation by poisoning the well; call me a hater before we even meet. We have a word for that, and it's called prejudice. Wait, isn't that the very thing that you accused me of? Go on, set up our relationship for failure before it even begins.

You see, there’s something at stake here that transcends all concerns of personal “rights” or partisan philosophy. It’s a principle called the rule of law. We have prescribed procedures. We have elections whereby we decide the issues by majority rule. It’s a standard of fair play that we all must follow, that each of us might have our say, even if we don’t always get our way.

Now Mr. Newsom wants to be my governor. And I would like to think that I, as an intelligent civilized citizen, might be able to give him a fair hearing alongside the other candidates – based upon the whole of his record, and not just a single issue. It makes my head hurt.

The residents of our state have now voted twice – yes, twice – to define marriage as a union between a male and a female. But Mr. Newsom and his partisans don’t care. They don’t believe in the rule of law. And for that reason alone, they will never get my vote for anything.

They are quick to point out that the Mormon Church was legally forbidden to join the campaign against gay marriage, and that they should lose their tax-exempt status.But somehow it was perfectly OK for other churches to publicly take the opposite position? Someone help me, please, I'm trying to keep up.

They say that it's a violation of the doctrine of Equal Protection, to deny gay people the right to marry, and the various and sundry economic benefits that follow.

Looky here, they suddenly believe in following the law! Strange.

They say that their opponents are motivated by hatred, and yet they angrily march in front of churches and shout profanities to plead their cause. Interesting.

I don’t hate homosexuals. What they do in the privacy of their own homes, is their own business. (And please, keep it there!) But if we call that union a marriage, then we will have to come up with a new name for the union that I have with my wife.

Because, very simply, it ain't.

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