Column: Homo Politics

By Sam Harding-Forrester

Arnold Schwarzenegger, that burly lummox of Hollywood who groped his way to reinvention as the Governor of California, made headlines last Wednesday by vetoing a bill passed by his state’s legislature to legalize same-sex marriage. He then justified himself by explaining that, since Californians affirmed the heterosexuality of marriage on a 2000 ballot, the introduction of marriage equality requires a court decision or popular vote.

This position is a rather brazen bit of bollocks.

Proposition 22 amended the section of legal code defining recognition of out-of-state marriages, not civil marriage in general. Conservatives have long complained that “activist judges” must cease tweaking laws to favor same-sex marriage, instead leaving such reform to elected legislatures. And recent polling finds Californians themselves split on whether they approve same-sex marriage. The veto thus looks like a graceless attempt to bolster social conservatives’ support for Schwarzenegger, who is likely on the cusp of a well-earned defenestration by disgruntled voters in 2006.

Meanwhile, “pro-family” organizations have marshaled their usual flock of canards to inveigh against marriage equality. The favorite argument runs that same-sex marriage foreshadows state sanctioning of an assortment of conjugal bugbears – incest, pedophilia and polygamy, in particular. If homosexual marriage is condemned for setting precedents for such marital mischief, however, we have a duty to explain what actually makes the mischief undesirable. Conservatives avoid such explanations because the obvious immorality of pedophiliac wedlock, or the fiscal and administrative landmines of state-sanctioned polygamy, are problems not present in same-sex unions. The expansion of marriage rights to ludic extremes would be easily avoided through such legislative distinctions. And the fact remains that whoever joins the club, civil marriage is desperately in need of reform. At present, it confers a haphazard assortment of privileges, united less by logic than through steady accretions of bureaucratic rubble.

Conservatives also assert that making marriage gender-blind would corrupt its capacity to coerce the breeders into breeding. Yet marriage serves families less by making parents randy than by keeping them together after progeny are produced. And procreative plumbing aside, same-sex families (like infertile straight couples) are interchangeable with their childbearing counterparts. Many homosexuals reproduce, and many more adopt, leaving a sizeable number of same-sex couples raising children who themselves stand to benefit from marriage equality.

Any mention of same-sex families, however, evokes a new conservative argument of the always popular “save the children” variety. The proverbial children, in this scenario, are menaced by malevolent homosexual couples hell-bent on raising them to be tolerant liberals. A cursory survey of our youth, of course, should reveal the miscreants often spawned from heterosexual homes. Nonetheless, conservatives imply children are better unborn than raised by same-sex parents, and worse off again should these parents be married.

These arguments collectively hold as little water as a New Orleans levee on Republican funding. All are fundamentally unserious smokescreens obscuring the sole coherent reason for opposing marriage equality: “moral disapproval” of homosexuality, by which we really mean an acquired psychology of disgust. Prudish moralizers abhor the penis in particular, and suspect that when two of the things consort they’ll inevitably conspire to society’s detriment. Yet such neuroticism laughably distorts the benign reality of homosexual lives. To be sure, we’ve all had our dubious fantasies of mercilessly spanking a delighted Chief Illiniwek. But the foundations of homophobia are ultimately indefensible, especially when expressed through our public institutions.

This is where conservatives have been right all along. There is indeed a “homosexual agenda,” and it aims for the recognition of homosexuality as a constant, worthy element of mainstream society. Aside from the plethora of practical issues that make marriage rights important for couples’ daily lives, there is a symbolic dimension to the call for marriage equality, which is why mere civil unions come up wanting. Same-sex marriage will offer inclusion and dignity to young people ostracized from the heterosexual norm. It might also help conservative parents move from tolerating to embracing the homosexual teen. Of course, if they still don’t want him in their family, one of us will likely want him in ours.

Sam Harding-Forrester is a senior in LAS. His column appears every Thursday. He can be reached at [email protected]