Gay Marriage Hysteria

After the Massachusetts Supreme Court legally validated the idea of a gay marriage for that state ' but as a matter of Constitutional law, for any state in the USA'-conservatives like Rush Limbaugh had a conniption fit. First there came to feigned shock-'reminiscent of Claude Rains in Casablanca vis-'-vis gambling going on at Rick's'-with the court's making law. As if this were the first time that happened and, more importantly, as if conservative justices didn't indulge in judicial activism big time, whenever they get the chance. (For my money it is high time some of them do a bit more judicial activism in some areas, such as restoring the right to private property to its proper position in Constitutional law!)

Next we see all the hand wringing about the tearing apart of our country's moral fabric-'as if what really troubled our society has anything at all to do with a bunch of gay unions gaining the designation 'marriage.' Preventing that will surely stop people cheating on their test at Annapolis or harassing female cadets at the Air Force Academy, defrauding their employees at various big corporations, faking news reports at major papers and magazines! Yes, stopping gay folks from marrying will be the ticket to moral rejuvenation for sure. How gullible can folks get.

There is just no reason for the fuss. To start with, the tradition of freedom of speech should inform us that we are all free to call our unions by whatever word we choose, however this may ultimately square with good sense. Related to this is also the peculiar idea, which is due for serious challenge, that the government somehow is in the business of determining what a marriage is all about. This is hokum'-state bureaucrats, even judges, have no special expertise about this at all. Marriage is an age old institution that will either survive intact because it's a good idea, or it will bite the dust because there is something strange about it-'maybe because we now live much longer than when it was invented, or perhaps because with the rise of individualism and pluralism, let alone multiculturalism, the one-size-fits-all approach to how human beings should work out their romantic plans is obsolete.

Yes, of course, in line with traditional Christianity marriages are made in heaven. But does anyone really know this? Has anyone been there to check it out? At most the idea is revered based on faith and as such in a free country it is wrong for the legal authorities to impose it on everyone. Indeed, it is interesting how easily the fundamentalist case against gay sex falls apart on the very biblical grounds on which it is supposed to rest. As one friend of mine has noted in a recent missive of his, is it not odd that the Bible says not a thing about lesbian unions? And if it doesn't shouldn't fundamentalists confine their worries to gay male sex alone? And doesn't such a Biblical doctrine then come off as arbitrary and capricious? It sure does.

It always amazes me how Left and Right tend to unite on some basic fronts without even being aware they are doing it. The Left wants desperately to control how we deal with the economic aspects of our lives'-they love to extort money from everyone so they alone can then determine how it is used. They hate the right to private property because it stands as an obstacle to this imperial goal. The spirit of the American legal system is, after all, capitalist, despite what Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes, Jr., maintained, unfortunately very influentially, in his dissenting opinion in Lochner v. New York (1905). Yes, the conservatives are eager to get some judicial activists on the courts to reverse the Holmesian influence, and in this case for very good reasons. But this kind of activism the Left hates, which is why liberal Democrats in Congress have been so vehemently opposed to George W. Bush's nomination of Janice Brown (currently Chief Justice of the California Supreme Court) to the United States Court of Appeals, District of Columbia Circuit, because of her opinions involving, e. g., property rights and parental authority.

But the Right is also itching to control us on numerous fronts and using the law as their weapon. They want to call the shots when it comes to how we think, what we believe, whom we worship, what religious edicts we declare official'-as well as with whom and how we associate and what we call these associations. So, they hate it when those on the Left are making use of certain provisions of the U.S. Constitution, such as the Ninth Amendment, so as to identify basic principles such as the right to privacy, a right that if protected pretty much shuts the state out of deciding the various voluntary unions among people that may occur and whether they may be called 'marriage.'

At the heart of all the frantic nauseating blabber about gay marriage is the desire to control people, to refuse to let them be, as if something truly insidious were to be unleashed by not invalidating their unions. Nothing is at stake in this prohibitionist effort other than the blatant prejudice of people on the Right against those who do not share their view of who may bond with whom. Sorry Limbaugh & Co., this is still America, not Iran.

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Tibor R. Machan's picture
Columns on STR: 70

Tibor Machan is a professor of business ethics and Western Civilization at Chapman University in Orange, Calif., and recent author of Neither Left Nor Right: Selected Columns (Hoover Institution Press, 2004).  He is a research fellow at the Hoover Institution, Stanford University.