Wednesday, April 20, 2005

COLUMN -- Same-sex marriage debate needs better focus

Posted by Craig Westover | 8:10 AM |  

Wednesday, April 20, 2005

The principle isn't to blame if people pervert it. If it were, after the witnessing the demonization of state Sen. Michele Bachmann degenerate to paparazzi stalking and bathroom blockading ("Same-sex marriage ban fight gets nasty" April 14), I'd be tempted to scuttle more than 200 years of evolving liberty and end my opposition to the Defense of Marriage Amendment (DOMA).

Fortunately, principle is thicker than partisanship.

It ought to be self-evident that a snapshot of public opinion should not be enshrined as a fundamental governing principle. To do so confirms the founders' fear of tyranny by the majority. It mistakes same-sex marriage for a public morality debate rather than rightly addressing it as a public policy question [previous column].

DOMA endorses a view of government as social engineer as certainly as the Profile of Learning did. It confuses the desire to live like a conservative with the lust to rule like a liberal.

That said, opponents of same-sex marriage have done more fundamental reflection than simply nodding to Leviticus 18:22. To their detriment, same-sex marriage proponents ignore reason in favor of intellectually lite intimidation and personal attacks, which only damages their credibility.

If one supports "gay marriage" and has not read David Frum's column [subscription link] in the March 28 National Review, take a night off from surfing the dump-Bachmann blogs and read it. It's a well-reasoned argument against same-sex marriage that proponents of those unions better be able to confront with something more than a digital camera.

"As same-sex marriage advances from slogan to reality," Frum writes, "we are learning that … same-sex marriage does not [merely] extend marriage. It transforms it."

As evidence Frum cites Ontario, where legislation deletes the words "wife," "husband," "widow" and "widower" from province law. Legislation before the Canadian Parliament deletes the term "natural parent" from the law, replacing it with "legal parent," effectively (Bachmann echoes Frum) depriving motherhood and fatherhood of all judicial meaning in Canadian law.

Frum relates an awards ceremony at Harvard where actress Jada Pinkett Smith, who is married to actor Will Smith, accepted an award with a description of how she overcame a difficult childhood to build a successful career and a happy marriage.

"Women, you can have it all," she concluded. "A loving man, devoted husband, loving children, a fabulous career."

Harvard's Bisexual, Gay, Lesbian, Transgender and Supporters Alliance objected because Pinkett Smith's words "implied that standard sexual relationships are only between males and females."

Frum views the Harvard situation and the Canadian efforts not as "weird excess" of the demand for same-sex marriage, but as "the logical, predictable and necessary consequence of that demand."

He writes: "The demand for same-sex marriage is not really a demand for a practical solution to practical problems. If it were, we would not hear so much talk about how the defense of marriage is like the defense of racial segregation; we would not hear so much anger and abuse; we would be talking about powers of attorney and tenancies-in-common rather than about discrimination and exclusion."

Frum views same-sex marriage not as extension of an institution, but the overthrow of a norm. The debate is not about reconstruction, but destruction.

Actions personally directed at Bachmann are inexcusable as individual conduct and repugnant to the dignity of debate in a free society; more to the point, personal attacks lend credence to Frum's contention.

The political challenge to same-sex marriage proponents is clear — prove that same-sex marriage is a practical solution to practical problems. That is not accomplished with picket signs, a camera or a hand on a bathroom door handle.

What is needed is discussion of how best to structure the compelling state need for stable family units, regardless of gender — a practical problem that requires a practical solution. Without such structure, the Legislature is stuck with a God versus gays debate that gets it nowhere.

A word of advice to same-sex marriage proponents: Those whom Bachmann can't outthink, she outworks. Best put away the crayons, pasteboard, the anger and abuse and start working. So far, you're not outthinking her.