Tuesday, May 24, 2005

A Little Ray of Sanity For An Otherwise-Dull Day

I have been debating how to blog over the lousy and perturbing news received this weekend that the Texas Senate passed the proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. Suffice to say I am not pleased, which, to borrow from Erma Bombeck, is the biggest understatement since Noah called the weather bureau and got a recording predicting light showers and drizzle.

Put bluntly, this amendment is going to be a bitch to defeat at the ballot box. While it explicitly bans gay marriage, civil unions, and domestic partner registries at any level, it also explicitly recognizes certain contractual and legal forms as not being precluded, which severely limits one of our better weapons of "imprecise wording" having unintended effects. In short, the best argument we have is that this amendment is unnecessarily duplicative -- which is shot to pieces by the daily news that this gay activist or that gay activist has filed a lawsuit to overturn another state's laws.

There is good reason to hope, though, that there will be enough people who realize that there is a deeper issue with this amendment and what it means to repel it at the ballot box. One of them is Dallas Morning News columnist Jacquielynn Floyd, who penned an excellent column (registration required) -- a few salient points of which I'd like to share here.

If, by chance, all those other real and pressing problems weren't solved, it's hard to imagine why the state Senate would waste precious time wheezing on about the need for an amendment to our state's constitution to protect the so-called "sanctity of marriage."

"I believe we should protect the institution of marriage," intoned Sen. Todd Staples, R-Palestine, the bill's sponsor. "We should hold that up higher than any other relationship."

He refers to the sacrosanct covenant into which the infamous Mary Kay Letourneau entered over the weekend with her schoolboy sweetheart ( Entertainment Tonight had exclusive rights).

He means the institution from which nearly 2 million Americans seek legal exit every year. He means the holy rite that couples celebrate and hold dear until one of them becomes besotted with a friend or a neighbor or somebody at the office. He's talking about that deep and abiding bond that so often peters out amid vicious bickering about who gets the house or the kids or the vacuum cleaner.

If pressed for a position on this issue, I have to say that with a track record like that, I just don't see how straight people have any business telling gay people that, sorry, marriage is just too important and sanctified for you.

How much worse could they screw it up? I say, if two people named Otis and Beauregard want to get hitched, it doesn't have much to do with me, unless I'm invited and have to shop for a gift.

But even if you don't agree that this right should be extended – and I understand that many people have reservations about what they view as a dramatic change to our social tradition – I just don't see why the Legislature saw a need to bring everything else to a screeching halt while they jawboned about it.

They behaved as if an army of scary muscular men in leather thongs was bearing down on the Capitol, as if some peril were ringing the alarm so persistently that the Constitution required immediate adjustment.

In short, they neatly managed to create contention and paranoia over an issue that wasn't posing any particular threat. From here on out, the noisiest and most outrageous gay-rights activists will get all the sound bites, which in turn will frighten and galvanize their most intolerant and alarmist counterparts.

Ordinary chumps (me) who saw no problem with the way things already were will be trampled in the stampede.

There is no possible way to improve on that commentary. She really hits the nail squarely on the head, and in a way that makes sense to everyone, gay, straight, or otherwise.

If you would like, please email Ms. Floyd your support at jfloyd-at-dallasnews.com -- I'm sure she would appreciate it.

Meanwhile, I'll be thinking about those scary muscular men in leather thongs.....

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