Today the Republican party finds themselves in a difficult circumstance. The GOP has left themselves in a position where they can either try to defend the indefensible, or dissent from party-line bigotry. It is an unenviable choice, but nevertheless, it is what the evangelical influence on the party has left them.
The “Defense of Marriage Act” (DOMA) more accurately should have been titled the “Attack on same-sex Marriage Act” since it wasn’t actually defending any heterosexuals rights, or who and how they can marry. It was designed specifically to deny gay Americans the same rights and privileges that heterosexuals have. But more specifically, Section 3 of DOMA codified the non-recognition of same sex marriages for all federal purposes, including insurance benefits for government employees, Social Security survivors benefits, immigration, and the filing of joint tax returns. It was written into legislation that same sex couples had different rules applied to them. In case anyone is wondering what applying a different set of standards to selected segments of society is more commonly referred to, it’s called discrimination.
Hence, the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Section 3 of DOMA.
Since then, the evangelical wing of the GOP has come out in force to denounce the SCOTUS decision, allowing for no pretence of Church/State separation while renouncing marriage equality as defying the will of the Judeo/Christian God. Sadly predictable, the evangelical right is forcing the party’s discourse towards rationalizing medieval predispositions, and reciting bigoted platitudes. Congresswoman Michele Bachman, and former Governor of Arkansas and now FOX News pundit Mike Huckabee to name just two were both defiant, and adamant about their disapproval of marriage equality… the former erroneously asserting that “Marriage was created by the hand of God”, while the latter offered the supposition that “Jesus wept.” Ugh.
This is the sociological quandary that the GOP finds themselves in. Do they capitulate to the evangelical base and their less-than-rational assertions, or acknowledge that every American citizen is entitled to equal rights under the constitution? Is it possible for some within the GOP to articulate that denying equal rights is not a right unto itself? Do they allow the bigoted predispositions of their lunatic fringe to dictate policy to the party’s detriment? Or does this become a wedge issue within the Republican party?
Ironically, before it became law in 1996, DOMA was a bi-partisan bill engineered by House Republicans led by then speaker (R) Newt Gingrich, and signed into legislation by none other than (D) President Bill Clinton. Hilariously, the thrice married Gingrich and the convicted marital vow breaker Clinton were the key figures in protecting the cherished institution of matrimony…
An institution, which by all statistical accounts has long ago had its reverence forsaken by heterosexuals like Clinton and Gingrich.
The truth is that despite the rhetoric about the sanctity of marriage needing to be persevered, traditional marriage was always based upon patriarchy . Of course, by “traditional”, the evangelical right means that in biblical terms, a wife is to be obedient to her husband. In a “traditional” marriage, women have a subservient role to play as defined by the scriptures, which is what’s implicated when the Christian right harkens back to “better days”. Cooking, cleaning, and baby making … ” Wives, submit yourselves to your own husbands as you do to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife as Christ is the head of the church” – Ephesians 5:22
The reality is that the Christian right’s assault on same sex marriage has a collaterally negative effect on women as well.
But the hypocrisy from “Traditional Marriage Purists” runs deeper than their bias against women and gays. The denial of how traditional marriage has failed in the post “women should be barefoot and pregnant” world is matched only by the ignorance it takes to defend an institution that boasts a dismal 50% divorce rate as something “wholesome.” An even more alarming fact is that like Gingrich’s and Clinton’s poor excuses for traditional marriages, many hetero-couplings that survive a litigious end are wrought with extra-marital indiscretions. For a more detailed analysis of how and why traditional marriage is obsolescent and an exposition of secular relationship viability, see my book
However since the signing of DOMA into legislation, the Democratic Party has wisely modified its position on same sex unions to coincide with the Zeitgeist , which is what a Govt. by the people and for the people is supposed to do. While their motives may be politically feckless, Democrats have nevertheless acquiesced to reason regarding the lack of constitutionality regarding marital discrimination. Likewise, today Republican voters are faced with a choice. To side with bigots and homophobes, or to defy their party.
As for the acerbic rhetoric that the evangelical right uses to mask their bigotry, none of the anti-equality assertions appeal to anyone with the slightest sense of logic . Each rationalization for wanting to deny same sex couples equal rights under the law is as unconstitutionally lame as the next. For instance, the “change the definition of marriage” argument is utterly inane, as the simple fact that a woman would not be required to marry her rapist, or that a man cannot sell his daughter for a milk cow means that we’ve already changed the “definition” of marriage, and for the better. Just as we have “changed the definition” of “freedom” as it applies to person ownership.
Neither does the “morality” argument make sense to anyone who has the slightest grasp of what actually constitutes morals. By attaching a “moral” implication to the manner in which consenting adults fornicate, let alone who they love, it not only masks one’s bigotry by bastardizing what morals actually are, but changes the premise of the discussion from one that is based on civil rights as it applies to the Constitution, to one that must tether to ethereal, third party oversight. Indeed, if one’s “morals” are dependent upon an intrusion into people’s bedrooms in order to establish that procreation be in accordance with the Judeo/Christian God’s carnal idealism, then their morals are at best questionable.
Yet bigots rarely recognize themselves as such, and thus these rationalizations make sense to them. By comparing consensual adults engaging in same sex marriage to pedophilia and bestiality, religious bigots expose themselves as such. But they don’t see it that way. For if one has to be explained why those comparisons are not only invalid, but hateful, then they are beyond reason. Yet these are the types of arguments continually made by members of the Republican Party.
Sadly these were the same retrospectively ignorant arguments made against interracial marriage in 1967. When the Supreme Court ended all race based marital restrictions in the now famous Loving V. the State of Virginia case where Richard Loving, a white man was sentenced to a year in prison for marrying Mildred Loving, a black woman. These same arguments were made by those who hoped to deny interracial marriage. Today we mock those ignorant, racist assertions, just as we will those making the case against same sex marriage years from now.
Still, the GOP is defending the Defense of Marriage Act the way that racists in 1967 defended the Racial Integrity Act. Both sets of arguments against equality operate from the premise that who and how we love is not germane to the precepts of liberty, and moreover, are subject to Christian doctrine. Thankfully, the Supreme Court disagreed on both accounts. Regardless of whatever excuse one uses for wanting to deny certain Americans equal marital rights and privileges due to their sexual orientation, the American consensus no longer allows for such rationalizations constituting a “different opinion”. In 2013, it is generally understood that making such assertions defines one as a bigoted asshole.
But despite everything leading up to, and including the striking down of Section 3 of DOMA, there is a much more important issue, and one that should never have allowed it to get this far.
If we –as a nation– are to operate from the premise that All men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness, then the self evident truth is that the state can neither determine, nor define any definition of love. The striking down of Section 3 of DOMA is important because how we treat one another is what defines us as a nation. It’s what separates us from the backwards, twelfth century xenophobes we’re at war with. Just as America improved itself when we abolished slavery, gave women the vote, and allowed Richard and Mildred Loving to marry, so we did on June 26th, 2013 when the Supreme Court struck down Section 3 of DOMA.
However it is inherent within the nature of humanity to forget the travails from eras past –those who suffered, sacrificed and even died so that their children’s children might lead a better life– and give back to their former oppressors that which they fought so hard to gain. Today is not the end of the struggle for Gay rights just as Loving V. Virginia did not mark the end of the struggle to achieve racial parity. This is still the beginning.
The endeavor for equality is enduring. Bigotry and ignorance are vigilant to their tasks, and we must remain ever steadfast to keep the darker parts of human nature from seeking their expression. However it is a battle worth fighting. For if history can teach us anything, it’s that equality is the hallmark of civilization.
As America slides further into the intellectual abyss, our collective ability to employ rational perspective — let alone critical thinking — becomes increasingly mitigated. Which is to say that as a nation, we’ll believe almost anything so long as we’re entertained. Such is the case with how Americans ingest information from what we now accept as “news”.
Recently, Gregg Jarrett of Fox News laughably showed his network’s approach to newsertainment by making disparaging, if not deriding remarks about CBS Evening News anchor Scott Pelley for his choice to pass on Congressman Anthony Weiner’s overexposed, albeit spectacular penis and choosing as his lead story — of all things– actual news. “This ain’t the 1960’s or 1970’s anymore” Jarrett lamented, as he called Pelley’s choice to not open his broadcast with the most famous schmekel in the nation, “a mistake”… and further went on to ridicule him for wanting to report “wars and real news”. The tragedy is, that where it concerns ratings, Jarrett is correct.
Despite unemployment again rising above 9%, violent turmoil around the globe, a derivatives market that remains unregulated and a political system that colludes with the financial industry, Weiner was the top story all week. When this story broke I surprised much of the http://www.UnLearn.TV audience when I was less sympathetic than many thought I would be. I believed (and still do) Anthony Weiner should resign. This assertion comes despite my appreciation for sexual libertines, or my own personal hedonistic indulgences. I have no “moral” issues with consenting adults and how they exhibit sexuality, as I believe morality and sexuality to be independent concepts. Personally, if I was packing like Rep. Weiner, I’d walk around the mall in pastel colored biker shorts. That was not my issue with the congressman.
I also understand that there are corrupt politicians who vote to pass legislation that will negatively impact all of our lives so that they can profit personally, and that such legislators deserve much more of our attention. Anthony Weiner’s photo eroticism doesn’t affect anyone’s income, health care, or safety. I get that. But there are other issues at hand here…. Other issues that cable news is either unwilling, or unable to articulate for fear of boring an audience more concerned with tabloid exploitation than reason.
To my knowledge, no one in the media has stopped to ask why someone as smart as Anthony Weiner would purposely do something so incredibly stupid. At least they haven’t sought a real answer beyond whatever double entendre laden punch line they were setting up their imaginatively attenuated colleagues for. Weiner knew he’d get caught. He had to. The rest of us did. So why did he do it? My conclusions have determined my reasons for feeling that Rep. Weiner should go quietly into that good night.
First, anyone who hasn’t figured out that not everyone on the Internet is who they say they are doesn’t deserve the benefit of anyone’s doubt. But Weiner does understand that, he just chose to ignore it. He is well aware that regardless of what some balding, middle aged CPA from Topeka claims, he is not really a 21 year old blonde nymphomaniac with a huge rack and a congressional fetish. He is also very cognoscente of the fact that he may well have been corresponding with someone who has not yet reached the age of consent.
Second, Weiner managed to legitimize an ignominious dullard whose only prior claim to fame was a misleadingly edited video tape. In the world of journalism, Andrew Breitbart was considered to have the integrity a crack whore in need of a fix. Even to fellow conservatives he was the fat kid who got picked last for dodge ball. Now he’s a star, and it’s Weiner’s fault. His fellow Democrats must be vomiting.
And third, Congressman Anthony Weiner defines himself through his trouser tuna , and he’s so utterly self obsessed that it obviously effects his decision making ability. There is a serious psychological disconnect there which frankly, I am unqualified to diagnose. But I do know that there are healthy ways to entertain one’s libidinous proclivities without imploding one’s entire career. And even though Weiner’s constituents seem able to indulge his narcissism so long as he remained effective at his job, it is the self destructive dynamic to his personality which makes me believe that he is incapable of being a competent legislator. Anyone who can’t contain their sexual exhibitionism and is willing to risk their political convictions for a cheap thrill should not be in a position to make our laws.
However, as the nation continues to allow itself to be distracted by the aptly named “Weiner-gate”… there is another poorly reported angle to this story which a dummied down America has come to accept without question. The misrepresentation of what a “mistake” actually is has impaired our collective judgment whenever people (often politicians) get caught after having carried out their intentions. When a person tries to do something, and accomplishes the very task they set out to do, that is not a mistake. It’s a bad decision, sure, but it’s not like they misplaced a decimal point during long division.
One does not “mistakenly” rob a bank, commit adultery, or in this case, send internet pictures of their genitals. So when Congressman Weiner says he wants to take responsibility for what he did, he is again not being honest. If that were the case, he could have diffused most of this from the outset by acknowledging his online trysts, and telling the media that these were private matters between he and his wife. That would have left the press with almost no place to take the story. But he wanted us all to see his pride and joy . Moreover, he needed us to see it.
Anthony Weiner knew these pictures would eventually become public. He is not stupid. He’s just a self absorbed narcissist, motivated by phallic fame. The place for this type of egocentric attention seeking is reality television, not the Capitol.
I like Anthony Weiner, but not as a congressman. Even though I often disagree with him, his is a voice that is vital to the national discourse… so I’m sure CNN would love to have him. They sure as hell can use the ratings.