Thursday, April 16, 2009

To Be Or Not To Be

CONCORD, N.H. — A committee of the New Hampshire State Senate plunged Wednesday into the escalating debate over same-sex marriage, hearing hours of discordant testimony on whether the state should become the fifth to allow it.

The state's House of Representatives narrowly approved a bill last month that would legalize marriage for same-sex couples, and the public hearing before the Senate Judiciary Committee came on the heels of victories for same-sex marriage in Iowa and Vermont. But with the full Senate preparing to vote on the measure as soon as next week, its chances remain uncertain.

With Gov. David A. Paterson set to introduce a same-sex marriage bill to state lawmakers Thursday, activists differ on whether the effort from an unpopular executive will help the cause of marriage equality.

The issue will hinge on whether Paterson and his allies can win the votes of enough Republican state senators to offset opposition from conservative Democrats such as Sen. Ruben Diaz Sr. of the Bronx.

Alan Van Cappelle, executive director of Empire State Pride Agenda, a gay-rights group, didn't directly answer questions about whether failure in the Senate following Paterson's high-profile support would constitute a setback for the same-sex marriage movement. "We are closer than people think, but we're not there yet," Van Cappelle said.

After Vermont and Iowa legalized gay marriage this month, New York could add to the momentum or halt it, said Suffolk County Legis. Jon Cooper (D-Lloyd Harbor).
"It doesn't make sense to bring it to a vote and have it fail," said Cooper, who has plans to marry his longtime partner in Connecticut on April 29. "It could potentially have national implications - the opponents of same-sex marriage could say even in liberal New York, this couldn't pass."
Make no mistake, Legislator Cooper. New York is not as liberal as you would like to believe. Parts of upstate and the North Country are redder than the reddest parts of Alabama.
I have long supported gay marriage on the theory that misery loves company, and why should gays have all the fun? Indeed, I suspect once gay marriage is legalized across the nation, the descriptor will be changed to "miserable" (insert Victor Hugo joke here).
In a nation ruled by law, as the United States claims to be and certainly as the Founding Fathers intended, gay marriage has its place. There is no good legal reason why marriage should be limited to anything beyond two consenting adults. Period. End of discussion.
One could, on a very conservative platform, make a moral issue with respect to marriage, but so what? Laws are made not to enforce morality and behavior, but to protect people from other people. Period. Two men or two women marrying impacts no one outside of their families.

It is not my business. It is not your business. It is not society's business. It is the business of the two adults, men, women, man & woman, and that's the end of it.
And if it were as simple as that, the issue would be resolved. Here's where it gets sticky.
Laws may be objective and impartial, and justice may be blind, but lawmakers are not, and there's the rub. You see, this isn't about the law itself. Any Constitutional lawyer (and the Congress and the state houses are packed to the brim with ConLawyers) will tell you that gay marriage ought to be legal.
The problem is, they have to be elected and that's where things get dicey. In order for gay marriage to obtain legal status, politicians must be able to override the fear of being ousted by their constituents, who don't always want to listen to reasoned legal arguments, who's opinion can be summed up as "they are fags and abominations", who's own fears are preyed upon daily by talk show hosts and televangelists and absurd manipulative hatemongers who, having lost the ability to stir up hate against racial and ethnic minorities (altho they still try, trust me), have shifted their focus on to less identifiable, more ephemeral biases: gays, liberals, Muslims.
Substitute "negroes, Commies, Jews" and you can see how the entire monologue of the haters isn't new, it's just been repackaged.
The way I see it, it's going to take one of two things to make gay marriage acceptable in this atmosphere: either a slow change in the atmosphere, or a radical event that presents a rationale that makes opposition to gay marriage pale in comparison.
Likely it will take a little of both, altho more evolution than revolution: after all, if Jackie Robinson (who broke the baseball color barrier 62 years ago yesterday) hadn't been Jackie Robinson, the Civil Rights Act couldn't have followed 17 years later. That's a combination of breakthrough and evolution, and that's what it is going to take.
There's an awful lot of fear surrounding this issue: an awful lot of the "ick factor" surrounding gays (sorry, but there's no other way to frame part of the trouble many people have in accepting gay marriage), and an awful lot of fear on the part of gays to be out and proud about who they are.
The fortunate signs are, both of these fears seem to be melting away, glacially. Certainly, more gay men and lesbians can come out into the sunshine now, and that four states have overcome the fears of married men and married women is a positive step.
Amen for both of those. We need more courage these days.