The title of a commentary by Robert A.J. Gagnon in the Tribune-Review (Pittsburgh, PA) on July 14,2004, is "'Gay Marriage' is wrong". Mr. Gagnon— and most of America for that matter— seem intent on equating (incorrectly) morality with legality. Morality is totally subjective and based entirely on what an individual believes is right or wrong. These beliefs are protected by the US Constitution's First Amendment, which is why the US Supreme Court, in the Lawrence v Texas ruling stated "this Court's obligation is to define the liberty of all, not to mandate its own moral code." The US Supreme Court reaffirmed that it is not the government's job to legislate morality. The government's job is outlined in the Declaration of Independence and I think it imperative that we review this historic document because it is the "first cause" so to speak when it comes to determining legality.
This essentially says that no man need prove he is the equal of another— it is a given by virtue of the mere fact that he exists. It also states that his existence grants him certain rights. Those rights can be summed up in the statement that he possesses the freedom to live his life as he sees fit. It then goes on to say that to "secure these rights"— to protect them for the individual— governments are created by the people and a government's power is derived FROM the people. In other words, the people tell the government what to do, not the other way around. The main job of the government, therefore, is to protect the right of every individual to live his life as he sees fit. (I'm using "he" only to avoid confusion.)
What most people forget or ignore is that rights come with inherent responsibilities. The responsibility when claiming any right for oneself is to extend that same right to everyone else: not just to those you like or who look like you or who follow the same faith as you, but to everyone. Because most people don't remember or choose to ignore this responsibility, the government must force people to respect the rights of everyone to live their lives as they see fit. Laws against murder, robbery and rape are not on the books because murder is morally wrong even though most of us will find it morally wrong. Laws against murder, robbery and rape are on the books because murder, robbery and rape interfere with an individual's right to live his life as he sees fit. And that right is what the 6-3 majority in the Lawrence v Texas decision affirmed.
This being the case, whether Mr. Gagnon believes gay marriage is morally wrong is immaterial. If 90% of the country believed it was morally wrong, it would still be immaterial. Laws prohibiting gay marriage prevent gay citizens from living their life as they see fit. Allowing gay marriage does not, in any way, shape or form, interfere with anyone else's right to live their life as they see fit.
Contrary to what the more conservative factions of this country seem to believe, the United States of America is not a democracy where majority rules. This nation is a constitutional republic, which means that majority rules only when its wishes do not violate the rights of even one individual. The US Supreme Court reaffirmed this in the 1968 decision in the Loving v Virginia case when it overturned the miscegenation laws that banned blacks from marrying whites. At that time, the majority of Americans most assuredly felt that it was morally wrong for blacks to marry whites. Yet the courts overturned those laws anyway. That doesn't make the judges activists, as people like President Bush have stated and would have you believe. It simply means they're doing their jobs properly because they're throwing out laws that do not protect the right of every single citizen to live his life as he sees fit.
But none of this addresses the misleading, misrepresenting and sometimes false statements in Mr. Gagnon's commentary.
Mr. Gagnon states, "The vision of marriage found in the Jewish and Christian scriptures..." and then goes on to detail what that vision is. He seems to forget that the First Amendment in the Bill of Rights prohibits the government from basing any laws on religious doctrine or dogma, even if it is the doctrine of the vast majority of people in this country. But setting that issue aside, what Mr. Gagnon has done is offered his interpretation of the events portrayed in the first few chapters of Genesis. So allow me to offer an alternative interpretation.
The individual, Adam, was placed on the earth with no other person around him. Adam has no idea what he is because he has no point of reference, no one to whom he can relate. As a simple example, was he tall or was he short? With no one to compare himself to, how would he know? So the Divine created for him a helpmate— someone who would be what Adam was not. The "yin" to his "yang". Someone who would "contrast" with him so that both could come to a greater understanding of who they were by relating to each other. Eve was not "created" so much as she was "extracted" and separated from Adam, who as Mr. Gagnon points out was initially both male and female. What this indicates— and what psychology and physiology verify— is that each of us are born with varying degrees of both male and female traits or attributes regardless of what gender we are. Gender is not as easily defined as "male" and "female" and gender identity is even less amenable to categorizing. Demonstrating infinite wisdom, the Creator then makes it necessary for both male and female to procreate, thereby giving them concrete "proof" that neither gender is superior to the other. That both are equally necessary for the continuation of the species. The main purpose of "creating" (or more accurately, extracting) Eve was to give Adam someone to relate to— someone to help him discover who he was. Because there was, at this time, only those two people on the face of the earth, they didn't have much choice in who they were going to "marry". But that marriage was first and foremost a relationship between two individuals and the main purpose of that relationship was to be companions or helpmates. It is interesting to note that it was Adam and not God who made the statement about a woman leaving her home and cleaving to the man and the two becoming one.
Mr. Gagnon then goes on to discuss the correlation of gay marriage to out-of-wedlock birth rates in Scandinavia. First, there is no gay marriage in Scandinavia: there are registered partnerships, but gay marriage is still only legal in the Netherlands (Holland), Belgium, three provinces in Canada and the state of Massachusetts (in order of legalization.) There are two rights that are denied gay couples who form registered partnerships in most of Scandinavia: the right to marry in the state church and the right to adopt children. Well, guess what? Gays who marry often want to have families of their own, but without the right to adopt, they are left with one option: to have a child out of "wedlock", which in this case simply means that the mother and the father listed on the birth certificate are not married. (By the way, there's that pesky statistic that shows that 70% of Swedish couples who live together marry after their first "out of wedlock" child is born.)
That issue aside, what Mr. Gagnon doesn't seem to realize is that correlation is not the same as causation. Both the acceptance of gay partnerships and out-of-wedlock children can be traced back to their real cause: the sexual revolution of the 1970's. Think of it, if you will, as a tree that comes out of the ground with one trunk but later produces two branches. While both branches continue to grow upward, the one branch does not cause the other to grow: it is the growth of the tree (trunk) that is the real cause of the branches continued upward growth.
Now Mr. Gagnon turns his attention to Swedish divorce rates among gays. He states that male homosexual couples are 1.5 times more likely to divorce and lesbians are 3 times more likely. But what he DOESN'T tell you is that the divorce rate (as a percentage of marriages) is 64% overall in Sweden and has been part of a growing trend in increasing divorces in that nation (and in much of Europe) for years. The US divorce rate is 49%. But the more telling statistic is the rate of divorce per 1000 people in the overall population. In the year 2000, that number for Sweden was 2.4. For the US, that number was 4.1. What this tells you is that the SAME Swedes are getting married and divorced over and over again. Where as in the US, it's simply more and/or different people getting divorced. Nor does Mr. Gagnon reveal that even in the US, the divorce rate among conservative Christians (those most likely to oppose gay marriage) were higher than any other faith group. He also fails to mention that the most recent marriage rates in Sweden, Norway, and Iceland are all higher than the rates for the years before the gay partner laws were passed. (As an aside, a survey done by George Barna, himself a conservative Christian, "verified findings of earlier polls: that conservative Protestant Christians, on average, have the highest divorce rate, while mainline Christians have a much lower rate. They found some new information as well: that atheists and agnostics have the lowest divorce rate of all." The same Barna study also found that divorce in the south and midwest (the most conservative areas of the country) were up to 8% higher than elsewhere in the US.)
Of course, whether or not gays divorce more or less than straights is really irrelevant. Children of parents who divorce, adult children of alcoholics, survivors of child abuse/rape and a whole lot of other groups are more likely to divorce as adults yet we don't forbid them from marrying. Children of divorced parents are, in fact, twice as likely to divorce as children from stable homes, yet we don't ban these people from marrying the first time and trying to "beat the odds".
But of all of Mr. Gagnon's "conclusions", this one is the most ludicrous: "There is good evidence that societal approval of homosexual practices may increase the incidence of homosexuality and bisexuality, not just homosexual practice."
What exactly are "homosexual practices"? Is Mr. Gagnon talking about a specific sexual act? If so, there is no sexual act that goes on in gay bedrooms that does not go on in straight bedrooms. The only difference is who that act is performed on or by. If Mr. Gagnon is referring to the increased level of tolerance when you see two women walking down the street holding hands or two men kissing on the street corner, then I would suggest the following: the increased "incidence of homosexuality" is merely an illusion. The only thing that will be happening is that more gays will be coming out of the closet as the level of fear in their lives decreases. You won't be "creating" more gays because gays are not "created", they're born. But you will be liberating them from the fear of being out and visible in their communities and this may make it appear as if the number of gays are increasing even though it's not.
Before he finishes, Mr. Gagnon speculates that legalizing gay marriage will increase the level of intolerance towards those who express disapproval of gay marriage. If by "intolerance", Mr. Gagnon means that those who disapprove of gay marriage will have to hide their views and opinions or face social condemnation, he may very well be right. I suggest that Mr. Gagnon read Galations 6:7: "Do not be deceived, God is not mocked; for whatever a man sows, this he will also reap." Mr. Gagnon's attitudes and those of others who agree with him have, for centuries, forced gays to live in a closet for fear of their lives. Now Mr. Gagnon might have a chance to see what it feels like to live in a closet— although the comparison will never be fully the same. You see, gays were in the closet because of how God created them. Mr. Gagnon would be in the closet for what he chooses to believe.
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