is little surprise that the decision of the Massachusetts Supreme Court to
open the door to same sex marriages has caused much reaction and rancor.
Some have predicted that this decision will open the door to allow the legalization
of polygamy, bestiality and pedophilia. Some have predicted the end of marriage
itself or at the very least its meaning would be diminished. Some have
called for a constitutional amendment (Federal Marriage Amendment) that would
clearly define marriage as a union between a man and a woman.
To begin with, I believe it is highly unlikely that even a liberal state
like Massachusetts would sanction same sex marriage. In all likelihood the
General Court of Massachusetts (the official term for the state legislature)
and Governor Mitt Romney will come to some sort of agreement on civil unions
similar to what exists in neighboring Vermont.
While some like Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist have called for a constitutional
amendment so far the Bush Administration has resisted these efforts. It seems
unnecessary for the federal government to get involved in this matter. During
the 2000 Vice Presidential Candidates Debate, Dick Cheney argued that the
definition of marriage ought be left to individual states and this is probably
the most prudent course of action.
Civil unions have been legal in Vermont for three years and there has been
no effort in that state or in any other to legalize polygamy, bestiality
or pedophilia. It is worth remembering that polygamists (such as some Mormons
in Utah albeit without the sanction of the Church of Latter Day Saints) do
not support homosexuality and have not sought common cause with gay rights
organizations. Simply put there is no critical mass of
public support to sanction polygamy, bestiality or pedophilia.
Conservatism at its best treats individuals on their own merits.
Marriage (or a civil union) is only as good as the two individuals involved.
There is, of course, no guarantee of success but that is true of all human
endeavors. In America, having the right to fail is better than having
no right at all. Those who oppose civil unions or gay marriage blindly
assume that the individuals joined at the altar are inherently incompetent.
This is inherently unfair. Yes, some individuals ought not to get married
be they heterosexual or homosexual. That is a lesson people must learn
for themselves even if it is the hard way. The government can encourage values
but it cannot legislate morality.
Perhaps what saddens me most is the suggestion that gay marriage or civil
unions will mean the end of marriage. What this tells me is that the people
who defend the sanctity of marriage really have no faith in it at all.
If a single court decision and a subsequent legislative amendment are all
it takes to bring down marriage one must ask if it is an institution worth
preserving. Of course, I do believe marriage is an institution worth
preserving and hope to enter into marriage some day in the future. However,
one does not strengthen marriage by putting down other people who wish to
live in a stable, responsible environment. It comes through hard work,
sacrifice, compromise, candor with healthy doses of laughter and merriment.
So long as people are sending out invitations, arranging flowers, buying
gifts, hiring caterers, booking hotels, looking with wonder at a new ring
and setting a date marriage, as we understand it, will be here to stay. So
will the sky. Look up and you will find it there.
Aaron Goldstein, a former member of the socialist New Democratic Party, writes poetry and has a chapbook titled Oysters and the Newborn Child: Melancholy and Dead Musicians. His poetry can be viewed on www.poetsforthewar.org.