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Gay marriage is going to happen, and here’s how I know

August 7, 2010
No H8!

Giant animate statue makey-outy time is all you need.

The recent Proposition 8 ruling is headed for the Supreme Court, and there’s no guarantee it’ll stand up there. But having read it, I’m not worried, and I’ll tell you why.

Some of Judge Vaughn Walker’s more scathing passages in the eminently quotable ruling (seriously, this thing is like a golden-era Simpsons episode) have become immediate media favorites, particularly the ones shredding William Blankenhorn and Hak-Shing William Tang’s qualifications as credible pro-Prop 8 witnesses and his stunning, unequivocal conclusion on Prop 8’s constitutionality:

Blankenhorn’s book, The Future of Marriage…lists numerous consequences of permitting same-sex couples to marry, some of which are the manifestations of deinstitutionalization listed above. Blankenhorn explained that the list of consequences arose from a group thought experiment in which an idea was written down if someone suggested it.

1man1woman.net* encouraged voters to support Proposition 8 on grounds that homosexuals are twelve times more likely to molest children…and because Proposition 8 will cause states one-by-one to fall into Satan’s hands….Tam identified NARTH (the National Association for Research and Therapy of Homosexuality) as the source of information about homosexuality, because he “believe[s] in what they say.”… Tam identified “the internet” as the source of information connecting same-sex marriage to polygamy and incest.

Proposition 8 fails to advance any rational basis in singling out gay men and lesbians for denial of a marriage license. Indeed, the evidence shows Proposition 8 does nothing more than enshrine in the California Constitution the notion that opposite sex couples are superior to same-sex couples. Because California has no interest in discriminating against gay men and lesbians, and because Proposition 8 prevents California from fulfilling its constitutional obligation to provide marriages on an equal basis, the court concludes that Proposition 8 is unconstitutional.

Walker doesn’t need to do much to render the pro-Prop 8 witnesses pathetic and knows it; the line about Tam’s reliance on “the internet” to inform his testimony is as elegant an instance of comic understatement as you’ll find this side of Austen. His conclusion that Prop 8 is unconstitutional reads like an instant classic, to be placed alongside the most beloved  passages from Brown v. Board of Ed in the civil-rights canon.

But it wasn’t the laughable “support” the Prop 8 proponents were able to muster or that triumphant conclusion that makes me certain that every gay citizen of the United States will be allowed to marry, and within our lifetime. Ironically, given my godless/pinko/commie/marriage-destabilizing political leanings, it was the definitions of marriage given by the two sides that prove to me that legislative homophobia is pretty much doomed.

When asked to explain the meaning of marriage, David Blankenhorn stated that marriage is

“a socially-approved sexual relationship between a man and a woman” with a primary purpose to “regulate filiation.” Blankenhorn testified that others hold to an alternative and, to Blankenhorn, conflicting definition of marriage: “a private adult commitment” that focuses on “the tender feelings that the spouses have for one another.”

What a sad, bloodless, loveless little notion. Anti-gay marriage activists are really leaping out of bed in the morning, painting their favorite viciously misinterpreted Bible passages on signs, and marching on ComiCon to protect the “regula[tion of] filiation”?

Maybe the problem is that Blankenhorn is in court to represent an academic perspective. He is, after all, Harvard graduate and the author of two books on family structure. So how is it that the anti-Prop 8 witness called upon to define marriage, the also Harvard-educated historian and author of eight books on the civil history of marriage, Nancy Cott, manages to be both academically precise and…you know, not a robot? “[Cott] explained that marriage is ‘a couple’s choice to live with each other, to remain committed to one another, and to form a household based on their own feelings about one another, and their agreement to join in an economic partnership and support one another in terms of the material needs of life.'”

I’ve been to half a dozen weddings in the last three years, and this definition represents precisely what the bride and groom (they were all opposite-sex marriages) were promising–so much so that it reads like slightly dry wedding vows.

But Cott’s are not the words bound to defeat Blankenhorn and gay marriage opponents. The words that ring the death knell for H8 all over the country are these:

Zarrillo described his nine-year relationship with Katami….”He’s the love of my life. I love him probably more than I love myself”.
Kristin Perry, a plaintiff, testified about her relationship with Stier….Stier is “maybe the sparkliest person I ever met….The happiest I feel is in my relationship with [Stier]”.

Zarrillo, Katami, Perry and Stier are the gay couples suing for the right to marry in California. Their statements of love for their–let’s just say it–spouses render Blankenhorn’s notion of marriage not just unattractive, but incomprehensible. Kristin Perry is so besotted of her would-be wife she refers to her as “sparkly” in a court of law. Likely while wearing a suit of some kind.

Marriage may have once been (and still is, in parts of the world) a means to “regulate filiation”. But that is not how it is currently conceived in the United States. The presumed right (of heterosexuals) to marry partners of their own choosing, rather than being required to submit to arranged marriages, is alone enough to prove that “tender feelings” are a core component of what we consider marriage today. And no straight person ever displayed more authentic tender feelings than Zarillo and Perry did on the stand that day.

love is all you need.


*A ramshackle place in the most tragic sense of the word, each of whose page-links open into a new window. Visitors not chased off by the grotesque linkage of homosexuality to pedophilia might well be irritated beyond endurance by the sheer incompetence of the site design.

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