While most of America appears to be getting in line with history by embracing marriage equality, there continues to be a strikingly large pile of holdouts who obviously don’t recall the infamy of those who opposed interracial marriage, women’s suffrage, integration, the Civil Rights Act and the freeing of the slaves. On second thought, most of us remember the sociopaths who desperately wanted to preserve slavery. They were called Confederates and around 300,000 of them were killed in the name of their sinister, futile and ultimately extinct cause.
And so we ought to remember with similar disdain the names of the people who continue to believe that gay Americans are second-class citizens not worthy of equal protection and civil rights. The list includes nearly the entire Republican Party minus two members of Congress (Reps. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen and Richard L. Hanna) along with a gradually shrinking list of Democrats.
In the House, Democratic opponents of same-sex marriage include Reps. John Barrow, Sanford Bishop, Henry Cuellar, Gene Green, Dan Lipinski, Jim Matheson, Mike McIntyre, Collin Peterson, Nick Rahall, Bill Enyart and Pete Gallego. In the Senate, it’s Sens. Joe Manchin, Bill Nelson, Heidi Heitkamp, Mary Landrieu, Tim Johnson, Joe Donnelly and Mark Pryor. These are all Democrats who are, shockingly, to the right of Bill O’Reilly on marriage equality, and it’s time to get with the program or be relegated to the where-are-they-now file.
And as the walls begin to crumble around the last of the holdouts, their most ridiculous counterarguments have become even more ridiculous. Naturally, we have the Christian fundamentalists who’ve managed to twist the issue into being one of religious freedom. In this case, freedom to ostracize and discriminate against anyone who they feel like scourging with twisted, specious, archaic biblical passages, which, in this case, continues to be the thoroughly shamed and debunked Leviticus section of the Old Testament.
What zealots like CNN contributor Erick Erickson (who recently wrote that gay marriage “perverts God’s own established plan”) and Fox News host Mike Huckabee fail to realize is that in a constitutional, secular society civil rights and laws transcend religion. For example, I don’t think Erick Erickson believes secular laws against eating the flesh of our children “perverts God’s law” according to Leviticus 26:29 (“And ye shall eat the flesh of your sons, and the flesh of your daughters shall ye eat”), and I don’t think Huckabee obsessively avoids shellfish or psychotically believes that Americans can own slaves and if the slaves have children, we can own them, too (Leviticus 25:45). Or maybe they do. And if so… weird. The Bible says a lot of, shall we say, questionably strange things and, clearly, any rational human being ought to pick and choose what’s reasonable and what’s just too ridiculous to be taken seriously. If Huckabee, Erickson and the others are concerned about God’s plan, they should probably spend some time reviewing God’s plan because a lot of it, you know, sucks.
Meanwhile, Georgia Republican Party Chairwoman Sue Everhart repeated the most hilarious yet least creative pair of excuses so far. First, Everhart believes that same-sex marriage is “all about” horking the system for tax breaks and health care.
“Say you had a great job with the government where you had this wonderful health plan. I mean, what would prohibit you from saying that you’re gay, and y’all get married and still live as separate, but you get all the benefits? I just see so much abuse in this it’s unreal. I believe a husband and a wife should be a man and a woman, the benefits should be for a man and a woman. There is no way that this is about equality. To me, it’s all about a free ride.”
So this is basically the Jack Tripper Theory. People will pretend to be gay so they can get cool stuff. In the case of the Three’s Company character played by the late John Ritter, it’s a great apartment in Los Angeles with two gorgeous roommates. In the case of same-sex marriages, it’s all about getting “a free ride.”
Do I even need to define how insane this is? What’s to prevent opposite-sex couples from doing the same thing, and therefore how is this a criteria for permissible marriage rights? How on earth do opposite-sex marriages prevent people from scamming the system in the same way? As I was reading the quote, the first thing that popped into my head was, Wow, she knows a lot about scamming the system. I wonder what her marriage is all about? Ka-ching! Perhaps in order to prevent fraud, all marriages should be banned. After all — the scams! Imagine how much money the government and corporations would save every year if there weren’t all of these marriage-specific benefits. Y’all.
And then she said, “Lord, I’m going to get in trouble over this–” Correct. She is. “–but it is not natural for two women or two men to be married. If it was natural, they would have the equipment to have a sexual relationship.”
Yeah okay, a few things here. First, it’s safe to assume that, per capita, just as many same-sex couples have “the equipment to have a sexual relationship” as opposite-sex couples. Do I need to go through the list of sexual activities that same-sex couples are capable of engaging in? From what I understand, there are quite a few. But perhaps Everhart meant to say “sexual relationships for the purpose of conceiving children.” So conceiving children is the sole justification for marriage. But I haven’t heard anyone suggest that infertile couples shouldn’t be allowed to marry — or couples who simply don’t want children, for that matter. What about old people like Sue Everhart whose ovaries have stopped producing viable eggs, or those who lack the hormonal desire for sex? Can they get married?
On top of everything else, there’s a universe of horrible things that occur in the context of an opposite-sex marriage. Everhart and other anti-equality conservatives seem to regard opposite-sex marriages as heavenly, sanctified utopian partnerships in which the sex is mind-blowing, the children are excellent and every financial benefit is used in fairness for the greater good. They rarely if ever acknowledge the fact that marriage too often includes abuse, divorce, exploitation, subjugation, hatred and criminal activity. Yet we’re to believe that if your opposite-sex marriage is abusive and horrible, the gay couple next door is somehow responsible for wrecking its “sanctity?”
There are simply no valid arguments against marriage equality. All that remains beyond the wafer-thin gibberish we’ve heard from Huckabee, Erickson and Everhart are cynical political calculations based on convincing enough bigoted cave-dwellers to re-elect these people. Not to be too gruesome about it, but the bigots are dying, and they’re taking their sense of entitlement and superiority with them. As the antiquated values of hatred and exclusivity dissipate, a new era of tolerance, equality and inclusion is rising, but learning from our societal mistakes is critical so that next time the process of evolution — of attaining new civil rights — won’t take nearly as long.