Gay marriage & sadder subjects

Feb 25, 2004 at 12:00 am

The trick to keeping your sanity, and not being angry all the time, is to occasionally pretend you are a foreign correspondent from Mars, say, and tell yourself you are dispassionately observing the lives and mating habits of the local creatures.

Actually, I think I must have a touch of alien blood myself, since, for whatever reason, I couldn’t care less what other consenting adults do with each other, as long as they don’t touch me, block traffic or frighten the squirrels.

Nor do I have the faintest idea why anyone else thinks they have a right to interfere. Which brings us to the great gay marriage wars. Unless you’ve been playing video games nonstop with Al Gore for the last month, you are probably aware that the mayor of San Francisco has been granting marriage licenses to gays and lesbians, and that thousands of them have been surging forth to get married.

The sight of these happy people, all of whom look like East Germans the night the wall came down, has made all the worst people angry. H.L. Mencken defined Puritanism as the great fear that someone, somewhere, may be having a good time.

And indeed, this has stirred up the usual animals. Ohio Gov. Bob Taft signed a “defense of marriage act,” which made it practically certain Oscar Wilde and Quentin Crisp will never honeymoon in Toledo.

The major remaining Democratic presidentials rushed to oppose gay marriage. Not surprisingly, this involves a high degree of opportunistic cynicism on the part of candidates who know better, but are justifiably frightened by the vision of themselves they know the Bushies are eager to paint.

Actually, the savvy know that the ultimate outcome of the war really was decided by the U.S. Supreme Court last summer, when it ruled “the state cannot demean their existence or control their destiny by making [gay people’s] private sexual conduct a crime.” Naturally, it will take the states awhile to catch up. But allowing gay people to marry is a logical and rational extension of that decision.

Eventually a gay marriage case will wend its way to the Supremes. Provided that Bush doesn’t put a couple of right-wing nuts on the court first, logic suggests the justices will declare that gay people have a right to enter into such a social contract.

Incidentally, there is a way to solve this that would make a great deal of sense, which is to get the word “marriage,” which has vaguely religious connotations, out of it, and declare that the government, which by our Constitution is a necessarily secular, non-religious entity, is not in the “marriage” business, but in the position of being an honest broker for contracts, including civil unions.

As it stands now I can give my property to a man or make him my business partner, and the Supreme Court has said no one can prevent us from having sex with each other. So we already have the basis for the law.

Marriage ought to be left up to religious entities. Then if a couple, hetero, homo, or J. Lo and her mirror want a “marriage,” they can go fight with some religion over it.

Eventually, this is virtually certain to come to pass. Naturally, such civil unions may not satisfy some gays, who need to stop whining. The point is getting what you want, not what it is called. Some years ago, I heard a brilliant woman defending affirmative action, but acknowledging the name had a certain stigma.

“I am willing to give up the words ‘affirmative action,’ as long as society gets the benefits it was intended to provide. Maybe it would help if we called it ‘banana’ instead.”

You can’t deny that has a certain appeal.

What is, however, appalling is what effect Gov. Jennifer Granholm’s latest clumsy budget-balancing scheme would have on public education. She has proposed restoring a previously plundered $74 per pupil to most districts — except those districts like Southfield and Troy where taxpayers spend $9,000 or more per pupil.

That means that districts where public education is the best are to be punished. Some parents, scenting the decline in quality, are sure to take their kids out of the public schools, and that will mean the schools will get even less money, and the slide continues.

That’s pretty awful if you care about making the state competitive for the future. That’s not a bad thing, however, if your top priority as governor is keeping the Republicans who control the Legislature happy.

Not long ago I talked with state Sen. Ken Sikkema, the Republican majority leader. He had no complaints about Granholm, except, well, that she doesn’t really have a policy agenda. Somewhat quaintly, he seemed to feel a governor should have one. But that’s OK, he mused, since “she lets us [the Republicans] drive it, which is good.”

Good for them, that is. I should add that he praised our governor’s style and abilities as a communicator. It’s just that, well … “there isn’t much there there,” he said, and the most devastating thing was that he wasn’t trying to be nasty.

Ralph Nader’s Decision To Run For President: I understood this perfectly, because recently I baby-sat for Nora, who is not quite 3. Whenever I started paying more attention to her older brother, she began yelling, “Play with me!” until in frustration she threw one of her Barbie dolls at Nick’s Saturn V rocket.

What is especially significant is that Nader never mentioned any specific burning issues that form the core of his candidacy. Sadly, poor old Ralphie doesn’t get as much attention as he used to, now that they’ve got nearly all those Corvairs off the road. Last time, in a more innocent era, a little over 2 percent of us voted for him. I’ll bet an autographed Dan Quayle golf tee he won’t do nearly as well this time.

Jack Lessenberry opines weekly for Metro Times. E-mail [email protected]