Friday, November 20, 2009

When Harry met Sully

In truth, this post should have been made before the election. Washington State voters, to their credit, became the only state where civil unions among gays and lesbians were upheld when placed before the voters. Take note of the words 'civil unions', or as it is better known here, the 'everything but marriage' law. It gives domestic partners legal rights and protections which cannot be denied in this state simply because some yokel thinks "this just ain't right".

For once, legislators got it mostly right; but as is more common, for the wrong reason. When Congress sent the Defense Of Marriage Act to Bill Clinton's desk he should have sent it back with a Post-It that said "Bubba sez no", even knowing his veto would have been overridden.

Here's why: At its root, marriage has always been a ritual steeped in tribal culture. Over time with the advance of organized society it became a religious ceremony, culminating in the variants we see today. With the advent of written law and codification of legal obligations it morphed again into something with real-life implications for everyone living in modern society.

Therein lies the rub, and the opportunity. Imagine for a moment that civilization could turn back the clock to that point where religion and law began to go their separate ways: The rules and customs of the church(s) governed the behavior of the faithful; civil law recognized and governed a larger populace that didn't necessarily agree on religious tenets. At that moment the logical thing would have been to leave marriage as a religious ceremony, with rights and responsibilities within the church; and let a secular government establish rules for civil unions that allowed for two consenting adults to enter into a contractual arrangement that spoke to the needs of modern lawmaking in a constitutionally secular legal system.

Okay, fine. How would that help us now? Among other things it would have rendered DOMA irrelevant. States would be obligated to recognize contracts entered into by parties from other states as required by Article IV, Sections 1 & 2 of the U.S. Constitution (which, in my humble and decidedly unscholarly opinion, renders DOMA unconstitutional). Gays, lesbians, muffin bakers, candlestick makers, zoo keepers and even internet posters could create boilerplate legal contracts to protect their rights. Go to the courthouse, get the contract form, sign it in the presence of witnesses and bingo, on with your lives together.

You want to shout Hellfire and Damnation from the Pulpit? Knock yourself out, but understand you have no legal authority to intervene. Another faith wants to enfold these couples--no problem--have your marriage ceremony with the understanding that it carries no legal authority outside the church.

This is where we fell short. We let the wisdom of the Founders...well, founder. We have allowed religious doctrine to infiltrate what should be straightforward secular governance. We have created angry schisms instead of reaching back for guidance. It was clear from the beginning that running a government for disparate peoples couldn't work from the dictates of the church--any church--and current events prove it still.

The increasing radicalization of the right by fear mongers, opportunists and outright liars is creating a pitchforks and shotguns mob mentality of the ill-informed set to storm the castle. History shows time and again that the tactics of the Glen Becks, Michelle Malkins and Rush Limbaughs of the world enjoy short term success in uncertain and worrisome times but ultimately the fall from grace is spectacular, and well deserved. Look no further than Lou 'all our problems come from illegal aliens' Dobbs.

Those of us on the Right that actually think about what our Constitution intends (you might want to read my first post, '52 Words), recognize that perfecting the Union takes real work. Equality is still just a phantom for far too many citizens and that means we need to roll up our sleeves and get back to work. How about a new party? I think I'll call it the Rational Republic Party and adopt the Mobius strip as our political symbol. What do you think? Wanna join?


  1. I wouldn't join, Bob, but I'd cheer you on all the way.

    We need a second party that's actually sane and interested in progress and improvement, not just automatically naysaying whatever the other person says. Looking at current political discourse reminds me of the old Monty Python "Argument Clinic" sketch.

  2. Alas, my son, political discourse is in retreat. Political histrionics rule the day at the moment. But definite kudos for the MP reference.

  3. I would consider joining. Will there be pie?

  4. Seriously, Bob, I'm so very much on the same page with you on this subject, as you know from our many discussions. Civil unions for all. If you want a marriage recognized by a church, go in peace and do just that. But the two need to be kept separate in the eyes of secular law.

  5. There's always room for pie. Mine would be a Big Tent party with wait staff serving pie-on-a-stick and corn dogs and tofurkey sausages right along with the smoked salmon, prime rib and mashed potatoes. But that's probably just the exuberant ex-caterer in me.