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February 24, 2004

The Inevitable

Bush Urges Congress to Begin Process to Amend Constitution

This was inevitable because it had become clear to the Bush/Cheney/Rove junta that evangelical Christians would remove their active support of Bush's reelection efforts if he didn't come out strongly for an amendment. The realpolitik of it all doesn't soften the blow, though, and the President's hypocrisy only adds insult to the injury. To wit:

"America's a free society which limits the role of government in the lives of our citizens," Mr. Bush said. "This commitment of freedom, however, does not require the redefinition of one of our most basic social institutions. Our government should respect every person and protect the institution of marriage.

"There is no contradiction between these responsibilities."

Perhaps tacitly acknowledging the emotion that has accompanied the debate over gay marriage, Mr. Bush closed by saying: "We should also conduct this difficult debate in a manner worthy of our country, without bitterness or anger. In all that lies ahead, let us match strong convictions with kindness and goodwill and decency."

So, I'm free to want whatever freedoms I want, as long as they aren't important ones. The concrete, daily, and implacable denial of basic rights to property and association that we seek is nothing when weighed against some entirely theoretical harm to the institution of marriage. And we are told there is no contradiction there.

In his sop to tolerance, he is subtly asking that the bigots that clearly call the shots with his administration to keep their hate on a low simmer, so as not to appear unseemly. Fat chance of that--their zeal as they fight to make us second-class citizens once and for all will be bright and withering.

One might hope that Americans would see them for what they are and stop this, but in doing so one would be naive. I fully expect the amendment to pass the Congress rapidly--given the overwhelming approval of the Defense of Marriage Act at the Federal level and the similar laws in 38 states, the math looks pretty clear. We could see the first states ratify the Amendment before our wedding in May. The sooner this happens, the more Bush can use it against the eventual Democratic nominee--who (let's not kid ourselves) will not attempt to sail to victory on the warm breeze of respect for gays and lesbians. No, we'll be asked to dutifully pull the lever for a candidate forced to kowtow to the religious right just as surely as Bush has.

So along with wedding plans and honeymoon plans and the hum of a shared daily life, David and I have had to think about what we will do if this happens. I am adamant--I will not stay in this country if the amendment is ratified. Thanks to David's Australian citizenship and "indefinite leave to remain" in the UK, we have options. Canada will take us--and even my mother admits that Vancouver looks like a good option by the dimming light of American freedom.

While I don't relish the prospect of selling our home, leaving family and friends behind, and beginning a career over elsewhere, I would rather do that than stay here and wonder what's next. I distrust my country too much at this point to dismiss the example of German Jews in 1935 and 1938... many bright and successful people were convinced that nothing would even happen to them, that things would not get worse, that Hitler and his followers were only using rhetoric as a means and not an end. When one understands that the Bush administration is deeply influenced by groups bent on establishing Christian theocracy in the US, who have advocated stoning homosexuals to death in the public square, what once seemed like paranoia can begin to feel like prescience.

When coupled with the coming economic calamity that Bush's policies portend, the outlook seems very dark indeed. If there is a crash, what better target for outrage than an upper-middle-class gay couple? One of us is even a foreigner! Things could get much, much worse. And I won't be the last rat off a sinking ship, thank you very much.

This amendment is, however saddening, only a symptom of the larger and much more tragic erosion of freedom and personal rights since WWII--something that should concern every American, straight or gay. The Cold War national security state, the war on drugs, and now the permanent crisis of the war on terror look a lot like the widening gyre. Perhaps the falcon cannot hear the falconer, but I can. The voice of reason is calling, but who among our leaders will answer?

Posted by jay at February 24, 2004 10:41 AM | TrackBack
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while the amendment will almost certainly pass the house, it's the senate that may show some reason - getting 67 senators to agree is still a big deal, especially in such a divided chamber.

there were many democrats who voted for the DOMA most likely in a craven attempt to appeal to a divided electorate (and because many hoped it would be taken care of in the courts and never brought up again). There are some moral conservatives on the democratic side, but many of them are also retiring at the end of this session. they'll be allowed to vote their conscious instead of caring about re-election & that could make things interesting. i'd still be surprised, though, to see 15+ democrats cross the aisle when it comes to amending the constitution.

also not to be ignored are the moderate republicans (there are a few) who might balk at this crass appeal to christian conservatives.

Posted by: jason on February 24, 2004 12:00 PM

The idea that anyone else's ideal of marriage has a meaningful effect on what marriage symbolizes or means to me seems so ridiculous, I don't even know how to engage that concept. I don't care if my neighbor marries a chihuahua, as long as he cleans up after it.

When I was growing up, the idea of getting married anywhere but in (the auspices of) THE church seemed unthinkable. I remember wondering as a child why anyone cared about a government certificate of marriage. The government wasn't regarded as an authority on our religious beliefs, and those beliefs seemed to specify all that was actually important about a marriage. So why care about the government when it comes to marriage?

I still wonder that today, though I now have (some) understanding of the legal and financial implications. It is easy, then, for me to support the idea that government should "get out of the marriage business", and here's a piece from Michael Kinsley from last summer on the topic.

Posted by: Gary on February 24, 2004 12:08 PM

The whole thing is so upsetting...but the one thing that made me smile today was the press secretary of San Francisco completely trashing Bush on NPR. Did anyone else hear it?

I thought that Republicans were all about states' rights. When was the last time we heard that theme song? Maybe it will keep some old-time Republicans for voting for an amendment.

Man, I was hoping we could get back to work on that pesky ERA sometime soon ("there's no need to do that, the states will take care of women's rights"), but I guess once again the rights of over fifty percent of our population are not as pressing as the bigotry of "the people".

Posted by: Marti on February 24, 2004 02:13 PM

I have a hard time focusing and articulating my anger and frustration around this issue. "The most fundamental institution of civilization..." - an institution designed to consolidate property and restrict the rights of women? Used to be marriage was only for the rich; by extension that does that make civilization only for the rich, too? (Also, can something be 'most' fundamental? Isn't fundamental the superlative?) But I digress.

I would hope that I would have shown the good sense to flee my current land of residence (Austria) if history had placed me here in 1938. But I also would hope that, in the gathering clouds preceding the war, my neighbors and compatriots would have had the gumption to stand up and protest the actions of my government.

The gay population isn't accused of poisoning the wells just yet. While the feds are positioning themselves to entrench their theocratic aims, local judges refuse to close their court houses and put a stop to the marriages. And Queer Eye (while crazy annoying) is a big hit. Gay has gone mainstream.

The impending 'brain drain' is as terrifying as the actions of the government. When folks like you start planning to get the hell out, we lose our not only our rights but our resources, too. Those of us who cling to our naiive progressive optimism (and it gets harder every day) need your voices to keep believing that we are not beyond redemption. And we need you at the polls - more than anything, we need you here to vote.

Don't start packing yet. Could you wait until November?

Posted by: pam on February 24, 2004 11:42 PM

Here's a fun cartoon by Mark Fiore, "Attack of the Gay Agenda".

Posted by: Gary on February 25, 2004 01:37 AM

Here's a quick review of marriage lately in our society, "The State of Our Unions", which features a quote from Dan Savage that I missed elsewhere: "Syndicated columnist Dan Savage wondered recently whether 'allowing me to marry my boyfriend (of nine years) would imperil lasting, stable heterosexual marriages like the one Britney Spears enjoyed for 55 hours.'"

Posted by: Gary on February 26, 2004 10:29 AM

Thanks for the link to an interesting article. All the more interesting that such a reasoned piece should be found in USA Today and not the NYT...

Posted by: david on February 26, 2004 11:54 AM

I'm just glad that Jay was able to use "widening gyre" in a post.

Posted by: Gary on February 26, 2004 12:12 PM
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