RW ONLINE: The Insane Ravings of the Marriage
Furor over Gay Marriage
The Insane Ravings of the Marriage Police
Revolutionary Worker #1210, August 17, 2003, posted at rwor.org
Question at July 30 press conference: "What's your view on homosexuality?"
President George W. Bush: "I am mindful that we are all sinners.
And I caution those who may try to take a speck out of their neighbor's eye
when they've got a log in their own. I think it's very important for our society
to respect each individual, to welcome those with good hearts, to be a welcoming
On the other hand, that does not mean that somebody like me needs to compromise
on an issue such as marriage. And that's really where the issue is headed here
in Washington, and that is, the definition of marriage. I believe in the sanctity
of marriage. I believe a marriage is between a man and a woman and I think we
ought to codify that one way or the other. We've got lawyers looking at the
best way to do that."
The most powerful political figure in the world is calling for "codifying"
traditional views of family into new federal law. This literally means using
the state apparatus (including legislature, courts and police) to enforce
these conservative views of marriage and sex roles--and mobilizing the authority
of the state to oppose any official acceptance of other relationships.
Every word here violates the separation of church and state.
Bush claims his god made clear what kind of marriage should be imposed, and
Bush intends to use the federal government to do it. By saying that a particular
form of marriage has "sanctity" (endorsement from some supernatural being),
Bush means that a specific traditional conservative view of man-woman
marriage is demanded by his god.
Bush states he sees no "compromise" on this--no compromise, apparently, with
all the millions of people who don't share his view of "the family," and certainly
no compromise with gay people who deserve equal treatment for their loving relationships.
To see how far U.S. politics has fallen into the grip of religious fundamentalism--just
note that even when Bush opens (momentarily) with a posture of tolerance, his
statement treats the whole issue as a matter of "sin" (the idea that morality
is defined by the dictates of a god).
In other words, conservative Christian dogma is now presented as the framework
in which this country is supposed to discuss matters of social policy. And the
particular doctrines that Bush then proposes as state policy are
the ravings of the fundamentalist Christian-fascists.
Everything about this is wrong and reactionary: Despite the hysterical claims
of right-wing forces, there is no "homosexual agenda" that seeks to replace
heterosexual marriage with "deviant" alternatives. And, as the president raves
on, it is important to realize that the "traditional family"--which is based
on male domination--is an institution riddled with abuse, dependency, and enforced
social isolation for women.
Granting gay couples the legal status of marriage is a simple forward step
toward equality (and would end the unfair denial of right to inherit, adopt,
visit each other in hospitals, share insurance and publicly celebrate their
The denial of this, the relentless slander about "perversion" and "sin"--is
part of imposing a much more regimented and reactionary society, where everyone
will be much more tightly scrutinized and judged.
The Ugly Tides of Official Politics
The U.S. is knee deep in a brutal war to control Iraq. It has sent its troops
to a dozen new countries and proclaimed its right to launch "preemptive war"
anywhere on the planet. The federal government has grabbed vast new police powers
for itself, disregarded basic civil liberties on a massive scale, and declared
that the "homefront" should be treated as a permanent battle zone. The U.S.
economy is floundering--millions are unemployed, the rest are job-scared, and
the exploding costs of war have produced a profound financial crisis for social
programs and state governments across the country.
And yet, in the middle of all this, the official presidential political season
opens with a shocking discovery: The American Family and Man-Woman Marriage
are in mortal danger! An aggressive, state- enforced "codifying" of marriage
and public morality are needed. Bring on the new laws, saddle up the marriage
What a calculated and reactionary farce!
On one level, Bush is obviously revving up the political juices of his particular
partisan social base-- some of the most bigoted and backward people on the planet
Leaders of the religious right responded with enthusiasm. Sandy Rios, president
of Concerned Women for America, said: "America desperately needs such leadership
in this dark hour of depravity."
There has been a growing push within Republican circles to make the suppression
of gay and lesbian rights a cutting edge issue in the coming elections. And
they are clearly seeking to paint the Democratic Party as the "party of sodomy"--pointing
to the presidential campaign of Howard Dean, who was governor of Vermont when
same-sex civil unions were legalized there.
Last month, when the Supreme Court overturned a Texas law criminalizing sex
acts between two men (the so-called "sodomy" law)--Supreme Court Justice Scalia
responded with a startlingly thuggish dissent, accusing the court's majority
of embracing "the homosexual agenda." He bluntly described any attempt to legalize
same-sex relations as part of a "culture war" within the U.S.
Following Scalia's lead, the leading Republican Senator Bill Frist came out
for an amendment that would prevent any further judicial actions favoring gay
and lesbian relations--by literally embedding the fundamentalist Christian notion
of "man-woman marriage" into the Constitution itself. Pennsylvania Senator Rick
Santorum raised a flag of raw bigotry by equating the legalizing of same-sex
intimacy with the legalization of incest or bestiality.
When Bush called for codifying this "man-woman marriage" into law--he was putting
his own "spin" on this--endorsing federal laws but not a constitutional amendment,
urging no "compromise" over gay marriage while pretending to encourage restraint
among his followers.
We have a pattern before us: Two years ago, Bush called for respect for Muslim
people after 9/11, and then unleashed racial profiling and roundups. Now he
mumbles about "respect each individual" as he calls for new laws reinforcing
discrimination against homosexuals. He wants to calm the fears of the political
middle ground, while he feeds red meat to the reactionary hard core.
After Bush's press conference, this anti-gay marriage crusade got further international
endorsement: the Catholic Church called for a worldwide political campaign against
acceptance of gay and lesbian relationships. In a detailed document issued by
the Vatican, Catholic legislators around the world were warned that their church
considered it "gravely immoral" to vote for gay marriage or gay adoption.
(As if to underscore the profound hypocrisy of all this, that same week CBS
news exposed a previously secret church policy document, written for the Vatican
in 1962, that orders all bishops around the world to handle cases of priestly
rape of children and sex with animals "in the most secretive way...restrained
by a perpetual silence"--the threat of exclusion from the church (and therefore
heaven, according to Catholic doctrine) was to be used to prevent anyone (including
the victims) from speaking out. Few things capture the perversity of traditional
morality more sharply than this simultaneous cover-up of patriarchal sexual
abuse and condemnation of loving relationships formed by same-sex couples.)
Meanwhile, an all-too-familiar "trickle-down effect" went into motion: After
Bush staked out an extreme position, key Democratic leaders twisted in an agonizing
way--embracing much of the fundamentalist madness, while offering the usual
pious amendments and exceptions.
After Bush called for federalized anti-gay discrimination "codified" in law,
the leading Senate Democrat Tom Daschle announced: "No changes necessary, in
my view. You've got it in law today." Daschle went on to explain that the 1996
Defense of Marriage Act (signed by Democratic President Bill Clinton) already
denied federal recognition of same-sex marriages and allowed states to ignore
same-sex unions licensed elsewhere.
Reading directly from that federal law, Daschle told reporters: "The word `marriage'
means only a legal union between one man and one woman as a husband and wife,
and the word `spouse' refers only to a person of the opposite sex who is a husband
or a wife."
"You can't get any clearer than that," Daschle said, adding that he supports
the wording of that law.
Changing the Country's Terrain
It would be a mistake to view all of this as just the madness of the American
political season--something that will blow over.
There has been a sense that gay and lesbian equality was a permanent change
that "is arriving" through a slow evolution of acceptance and changes. It is
true, and important, that there has been a much broader mass acceptance of open
gay relationships--especially among the new generation. It is true that changes
have appeared within law and culture.
The old and rarely enforced laws against sodomy were just overturned by the
Supreme Court. Corporations have started to recognize "domestic partnerships"
and at least one state government has allowed "civil unions" granting gay relationships
a legal recognition short of marriage. An openly gay Episcopal clergyman has
just been made bishop by his church. Bride 's magazine has run its first
feature on same-sex weddings. And millions of people casually watch gay characters
and couples on commercial TV (with all the mix of acceptance and stereotyping
embodied in something like "Queer as Folk"). Jay Leno even just got a makeover
from the cast of "Queer Eye for the Straight Guy."
But the burst of venom from the White House, from Scalia's bench on the supreme
court, and from leading figures of the Senate--all show that there are powerful
forces in the U.S. determined to roll back any changes and exploit any acceptance
of gay relationships to demand the enforcement of their own, extreme Christian-fascist
morality. Gradual acceptance can be driven back by the powerful campaigns to
conservatize this country.
In many ways these forces reveal their own goals and motives when they stress,
over and over, that enforcing the traditional patriarchal family is a vital
part of conservatizing the U.S. as a whole.
They don't just intend to boot "Will & Grace" from TV--they want to fan
anti-gay hysteria to tighten all kinds of social norms--to roll back
the independence of women (including women's choice), to tighten state and familial
control over children (including increasing discipline and brainwashing in schools),
they want to eliminate diversity and experimentation, and they want to enshrine
all their intolerable norms as models.
It is not an accident that those who have unleashed the Big Brother moves of
the Patriot Act also want to legally forbid the acceptance of gay marriages.
And it is not an accident that the same so-called Democratic establishment
that embraces the framework of Bush's "war on terror" can't speak a clear sentence
in defense of gay equality and acceptance.
This is a time of rapid change--where military crusades abroad are linked to
Big Brother crusades at home. This manufactured political hysteria over "gay
marriage" got an endorsement from the White House in order to unleash reactionary
religious norms as a weapon on the "homefront." It is linked at every point
with the whole battle over what kind of lives we will lead and what kind of
world we will live in.
This article is posted in English and Spanish on Revolutionary Worker Online
http://rwor.org - Revolutionary Worker Online
http://rwor.org/resistance -RW resource page on resisting the juggernaut of war and repression
http://2changetheworld.info - Discuss revolutionary strategy and the RCP's Draft Programme
Write: Box 3486, Merchandise Mart, Chicago, IL 60654
Phone: 773-227-4066 Fax: 773-227-4497