As you are well aware, a debate is raging in this country about gay marriage. Specifically , that allowing gay couples the right to enter into the institution of marriage will destroy the Fabric of American Life, in this case the Fabric most likely being a rough cotton blend, not too comfortable lest there be some accidental pleasurable friction in your Satan's Playground Spots.
This sociological approach is the only remotely viable (and yet still fatally weak) argument against gay marriage -- it cannot be opposed on any reasonable grounds in a civil rights sense. To paraphrase Thomas Jefferson, gay marriage neither picks my pocket nor breaks my leg. Two gay people getting married in my general vicinity do not change my legal rights. They do not affect my earning potential, they do not raise my taxes, they do not infringe on either my rights to certain freedoms or opportunities to practice such freedoms. They do not, in a negative way, affect the legal status of other marriages. Divorce case law and evolving property law defines my legal relationship with my wife far more than any other factor. The "slippery slope" argument will always be there, but again -- case law, people. Legal Armageddon has been predicted from pretty much every sociological and technical advance in the last two centuries. We've limped along. If you can skate past the idea that it's legal in Georgia for a 60 year old man to have sex with a 16 year old girl but not cool for two 30 year old men to share a life insurance policy -- good for you.
One may oppose gay marriage from a religious standpoint, but one's religious rights are not abridged. If one belongs to a religion which opposes gay marriage, then odds are there will not be any gay marriage in your church. Gay people will not paratroop in and occupy your vestry. You will not have to worship with them, change the personal nature of your relationship to God, or even like them.
Kiernan at Crooked Timber tackles a well-known opponent of gay marriage. This Maggie Gallagher is taking the "marriage is an institution necessary for the functioning of society" road, with the tour bus painted a lovely shade of "and by marriage I'm going to use what marriage has meant legally for the last hundred years or so and blithely pretend that's the tradition stretching back to the dawn of Western Civilization" primer. The engine for this bus will be the ever popular "societies make babies and the best way for society to raise babies is through marriage as it's traditionally defined" -- again, the "tradition" being whatever version of marriage in the history western civilization best fits the argument in each specific paragraph of her essay.
By the way, I have no problem with arguing that children are better off with one parent than two -- although I am reminded of my friend Jeff Rothpan's joke: "My parents stayed together for the sake of the children. Thank God, because there's nothing better for children than fifteen years of screaming, spite and death threats." No, to take a detour for a moment, my bone to pick with the above concept is that as a married couple with no children, my wife and I are are in this argument's throes a de facto gay couple. Indeed, by that logic there's no real reason for us to be married at all -- and if your argument is meant to encourage marriage, you've rather shot yourself in the foot, eh? I will, however, accept my role as some sort of cultural fringe benefit in the main battle of breeding, and try not to unravel society too much as I dump enormous amounts of tax money into a system for other peoples' children's benefits, and take no parallel benefits of my own. Oh, and by the way, you're goddam welcome.
But accepting the basis of her argument before Ms. Gallagher mangles it in the sales job, let's say I spot her: marriage is a Very Important Institution, and we'll even spot her the why based on whatever shambling argument she constructs. But if one's argument is that Marriage is "under attack", then I would argue --as Kiernan does -- that no-fault divorce and the cultural acceptance of divorce is a far more devastating "attack" on marriage.
If we want marriage to continue as a viable societal tradition, then we have to teach our young 'uns that marriage has value -- but how are we to do this when their role models treat marriage so shabbily? Move past the prevalence of divorce in modern society and look at the glamorization of it by those most craven of cultural beasts -- celebrities. Many very smart people have argued about the nature of "celebrity", but I think we can all agree, part of the nature of fascination with celebrities is that they are rich, they are good-looking, they are famous, they are desired ... as are their lifestyles. And what do their lifestyles say? Divorce is okay. Divorce is nothing more than tabloid fodder as you move onto the next glamorous sex object.
To wit, what makes a stronger impact on the perceived value of marriage as an institution: skads of people lining up desperate to join in it despite great opposition; or people not only discarding their marriages, but discarding multiple marriages as if they were Dunkin' Donut cups? What "attacks" marriage more than people actually dissolving their marriages, often within mere days of entering into that holiest of sacraments?
Look, people, never mind the celebrity divorce boom of the 60's. Kenny Chesney and Renee Zellweger bailing within months, Britney Spears and J-Lo's infamous micro-marriages, The whole Jen/Brad/Angelina affair has risen to mythological proportions ... and now Nick and Jessica's are-they-or-aren't-they ... folks, find me some celebrities who aren't on at least their second marriage.
Logic, that cruelest of mistresses with the pointiest of spanking paddles, has brought us to this point, my friends. When prioritizing our threats against marriage, widespread rejection of the sanctity of marriage by our cultural icons propogated relentlessly through 24/7 media saturation is unarguably a greater threat against marriage's status as a societal value than the efforts of a few thousand malcontent high-school drama teachers standing in lines outside City Hall in two states of the Union.
So how do we stop this cultural plague? Well, we'll never win the fight to just out-and-out outlaw divorce: far too many powerful politicians and pundits depend on it as a way to mark their rise in power and income through progressive wife trade-ins. No, the roundabout solution here is to ban the marriage of celebrities in the first place, to keep them from spreading their disgusting guerilla free-love meme when they eventually, inevitably dissolve these shams perpetrated in the Kabbalah ceremony of their choice. We at Kung Fu Monkey are proud to make the Defense Against Celebrity Marriage Amendment our first political cause.
There is hard work to be done in the planning and implementation of such a Constitutional Amendment, not the least of which being the definition of "celebrity". Countless court challenges, I'm sure, will occur around the fine line between "public figure" and "celebrity". I am suggesting that we trust the private sector to do the work here, as opposed to creating yet another burdensome government department. A simple computer algorithm based around mentions in Us Magazine, People Magazine, Entertainment Tonight, what will eventually be dubbed the "E! Saturation Index", and the ever useful Defamer will move individuals on and off the Non-Celebrity Marriage Eligibility List.
The great thing here is that there's no way the average American will find his rights abridged by this Amendment ... because by definition, a celebrity is not average!
We will begin fund-raising mail-outs soon, followed by focus groups and position polling among the 2006 and 2008 candidates. We look forward to you joining us in our campaign to preserve marriage in America by denying it to other people!
(EDIT: Find something here interesting, amusing, or at least offensive in a a novel way? Toss a buck in the tip jar for the the victims of the Kasmir Earthquake -- Kung Fu Monkey will match every donation! Also, an index of previous articles here.)