Essays & Images on Cities, Travel and Contemporary Culture. A web journal of James A. Clapp, Ph.D., an UrbisMedia Ltd. Production

Vol.2.4: A Modest Proposal

With the Massachusetts decision on Gay Marriage putting the issue back in the news the question has been raised as whether this will become the “wedge issue” in an strongly divided political atmosphere. Polls shop that most Americans (some 60+%) do not favor gay marriage because they fear it will destroy the concept of “marriage” and weaken the American “family.” This makes it a rough issue for the more liberal wing of the American polity, particularly the Democrats.

Feelings run strong in this ideological territory; witness the horror of the Episcopalians (a certainshadenfreude ensues when another denomination has some “horrors”) over their openly gay bishop. But it is also true that a majority of people feel that gays deserve the same “rights” as other people, even extending to their “unions.” So there seems to be a difference over the use of the term “marriage.” “Gay Civil Unions” are more acceptable to more people than are “Gay Marriages.” Marriage apparently connotes “family” and many people do not want to allow gays unions to be called “families.” 

A slight detour is worthy of mention here. At the post office yesterday I bought a sheet of this stamp.


Could this mean that there is something wrong with a lot of American families even BEFORE gays and lesbians might get to call their unions “marriage,” and perhaps even form families? Could this mean that all that Religious Right blather that implies that people who are “straight” and have found Jesus as their personal savior don’t get a little liquored up and whack their kids and wives, of vice versa? Lordy, lordy, we can’t do anything that might threaten that mythical pristine picture of American domesticity? 

So, back to the semantics part of it, since it would be a shame to let semantics get in the way of matters of fairness and equal rights. How about this for a proposal (and possible Democratic plank):

Let’s do a separation of Church and State on this one. Any two people of any gender (yes, even something freaky, like Michael Jackson and anyone stupid enough to marry him) can form a “Civil Union” and be entitled to all the rights that married people have. We just call it a civil union and that covers their rights, like inheritance, etc. Everybody has to do this to get these rights, even ex post facto. Then, any united couple can go to any Church that will “marry” them and get “married.” They can call themselves “married” if they like and they can have or adopt children with the same rights that non-gay couples enjoy. Or, they can just walk around saying they are married, or gay, or extra-terrestrials, whatever, because it has no legal meaning. (But if you punch them for saying it you can be sued.)

Brilliant in its simplicity, eh? Well, of course not. But I will assume that it is if I don’t hear some concerns and objections. 

All happy families resemble each other, each unhappy family is unhappy in its own way. L. Tolstoy,Anna Karenina, Ch 1

©2003, James A. Clapp (UrbisMedia Ltd. Pub. 11.20.2003)