Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The more things change...

I wrote the following nearly five years ago for the Chico News & Review. In the wake of the passing of Prop. 8, it still seems relevant.

Amend this
February 26, 2004

President Bush wants to amend the Constitution to make sure gay people can’t get married. Can this be true? Is he serious? Remember, this amendment that blatantly discriminates against a significant population in this country would be right there with other, perhaps loftier ideals such as the amendment to abolish slavery (13th) and the one giving women the right to vote (19th). These were inclusionary amendments established out of sense of human dignity and an attempt to bring the country together. (There are 27 amendments in all, including the one creating Prohibition and the amendment to overturn it. And what about No. 14, one of my favorites, which guarantees all persons born or naturalized in the United States equal protection of law?) This Bush amendment is designed as a wedge issue in an election year. Incredible. How does this protect the “sanctity of marriage?” I think the sanctity ideal--saintliness or godliness--has been pretty well raked over the coals by the likes of Britney Spears, Mickey Rooney, Elizabeth Taylor, Larry King, Drew Barrymore, Michael Jackson, Nicholas Cage and Liza Minelli.

If the president really wants to protect marriage, why doesn’t he work for an amendment outlawing divorce? What is more threatening to marriage than divorce? Make people live in misery for the rest of their lives--isn’t that what Western religion is all about? And just think, if divorce were outlawed, Rep. Wally Herger, R-Chico, would not be a Mormon today. People wouldn’t rush into these state-sponsored contracts. “Till death do you part” would mean something. If anything threatens the institution of marriage, it certainly isn’t gay people. That argument completely escapes me. Divorce is the culprit here.

We got a press release from Focus on the Family Chairman Dr. James C. Dobson, the guy who does occasional comments, breaking in during FOX newscasts to tell us how to live a good Christian life. Dobson said Bush’s amendment “is the linchpin in efforts to protect marriage in our country.” I called the Colorado Springs offices. A woman named Rachael Keehne answered. I identified myself and said I wanted to talk with Davis Gasak, the name listed as the contact person. “David is not available,” she said. Why is he listed as the contact person? I asked. “Well actually he is the media coordinator.” Who can I talk to? “Nobody right now. We’re swamped.” Is it because of this amendment idea from President Bush. “Well yes, but we’re always busy.” May I talk with Dr. Dobson? “Oh, he’s not actually here.” Have you ever met him? “Not one-on-one. I was in a room once that he passed through.” I told her all I wanted was a response to my proposal that we outlaw divorce instead as a way to protect marriage. She said someone would get back to me.

A few hours later she called and told me no one was going to get back to me anytime soon. She also said, under questioning, that my divorce amendment didn’t seem like such a good idea and that marriage was a gift from God to women and men. “I have a lot of ex-gay friends who now have families and God in their lives,” she told me. I suggested if marriage was a gift from God maybe we shouldn’t address it in the Constitution--separation of church and state and all that. She said there is nothing in the Constitution that establishes a separation of church. I reminded her of the First Amendment. She said I was misinterpreting it but not to feel bad because a lot of people do. I told her to mark my words that in 15 to 20 years we’ll all look back on this time and wonder what we were thinking. “These people are not going to give up,” I told her. “This effort for equality is not going to go away, not even with an amendment.” She said, “OK,” and then we ended the conversation.

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