Archive for August 1st, 2006

This weekend, I was off attending a wedding just outside of Yosemite Park in California. It was a lovely trip – mainly because we left our children with the in-laws – my first time away from the kids since they were born. I slept. I read an entire newspaper without interruption. I ate dinner without regard to my companions’ drinks or to the amount they consumed.

I also attended a wedding ceremony. The words spoken by the officiator were tremendous and moving. At one point she quoted from the Massachusetts Supreme Court decision that legalized gay marriage in the state, and it was sublime. Naturally, then and there, I resolved to blog about it.

What struck me about Justice Marshall’s majority opinion was its beauty:

Marriage also bestows enormous private and social advantages on those who choose to marry. Civil marriage is at once a deeply personal commitment to another human being and a highly public celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family. “It is an association that promotes a way of life, not causes; a harmony in living, not political faiths; a bilateral loyalty, not commercial or social projects.” Griswold v. Connecticut, 381 U.S. 479, 486 (1965). Because it fulfils yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity, civil marriage is an esteemed institution, and the decision whether and whom to marry is among life’s momentous acts of self-definition.


That’s the interesting thing about this issue. It centers around what our society considers to be the purpose of marriage. If the purpose of marriage centers around a societal function that doesn’t rely on the conjunction of a man and a woman, then it should follow that gay marriage should be legal.

That’s why the majority opinions I quoted from the Washington and New York court decisions upholding the ban of gay marriage sound so convoluted. They attempt to define marriage primarily as a biological function necessary to the production of children.

But not only do gay couples have the ability to father or mother a child without breaking the traditional sexual vows of wedlock (thanks to science and adoption), but this interpretation implies that childless married couples, or married couples who aren’t interested in having children (like the couple whose marriage I witnessed this weekend), are somehow violating the institution of marriage.

In fact, the New York decision affirms this, but explains the reason childless couples aren’t denied marriage is because of, well, the administrative difficulties involved:

…plaintiffs point out that many opposite-sex couples cannot have or do not want to have children. How can it be rational, they ask, to permit these couples, but not same-sex couples, to marry? The question is not a difficult one to answer. While same-sex couples and opposite-sex couples are easily distinguished, limiting marriage to opposite-sex couples likely to have children would require grossly intrusive inquiries, and arbitrary and unreliable line-drawing.

The danger to straight couples in this line of reasoning is clear. Because marriage is for procreation, then any marriage where the couple isn’t active trying to procreate is..well…unethical. Not only that, but so is any childbirth outside of wedlock. Or divorce involving children.

It’s not a leap from this idea to a legal basis to, say, outlaw contraception. Even for married couples. Or place more bureaucratic hurdles to divorce. Or make adultery illegal. The state is threatening to intrude into our private lives.

I reject the logic behind these arguments. Marriage is not a utilitarian agreement to become biological baby factories.

No, the definition of marriage offered by Justice Marshall clearly benefits from the weight of truth. You know it’s true when you read it. Marriage is a “personal commitment to another human being” and a “celebration of the ideals of mutuality, companionship, intimacy, fidelity, and family.” Marriage does “fulfil yearnings for security, safe haven, and connection that express our common humanity” and this is why it’s an “esteemed institution.”

And these are the reasons that I am married.

Can I – or anyone — deny the institution to a couple based solely on their sexual orientation? I think the Washington and New York courts violated their duty to their states by failing to protect individual liberty from the prejudice of the mob.

Staunton Virginia’s paper, The News Leader, responded to Burns’ outburst against its firefighters:

As we said at the outset, Burns is welcome to his opinion. It’s his job to listen to constituents, not foreigners like a bunch of firefighters from Augusta County — even if they did help put out a fire they didn’t really have to fight.

But the beauty of this whole First Amendment thing is that we can have an opinion, too; and our opinion is that Sen. Conrad Burns, R-Montana, was totally off base and an ungrateful jerk.

Virginia’s “Capitol Hill Blue” blog called Burns “The Mouth That Roared.” And he was caught on film putting out his own political fire, “that’s the way to shut that down…”

You’re always good for a laugh, Senator.

Update: Jeff Stevens of Missoula (no relation, I swear) penned this snark for our paper’s letters page:

When Conrad Burns comes up to you in an airport and accuses you of not doing “a God-damned thing” you should take him very seriously. He’s an expert on the subject.

On the same letters page, Missoula’s Will Cowdrey calls Burns “out of touch with…reality” and an “embarassment,” but more importantly reminds us that somebody should apologize to the Virgina hot shots, and gives us an address where we can send our thanks:

I am sending a note of apology and gratitude to the members of the Augusta Hotshots from the George Washington and Jefferson National Forest in Virginia, 5162 Valleypointe Parkway, Roanoke, VA 24019-3050, because I know that Sen. Burns will not.

We need guys like these coming to our state. Let ’em know Montanans support them…


The Burns firefighter story gets worse. Which also shows that it wasn’t a one-time incident, that the Senator had been walking around insulting and threatening every firefighter he could get his hands on. Oh yeah, now forest service appointees are smearing the press for covering the story. At least the Missoulian had something smart to say about it all…for a change…

Kossak sandlapper follows the initiative money to Howard Rich. What’s that sound from Montana newspapers? Crickets…

Jeff Mangan on CI-97: “Simply put, Montana will be unable to compete at any level with other states should CI-97 pass.”

This I truly don’t get. Apparently one of the spokesmen for the NRSC behind the anti-gay GOP campaign rhetoric is gay. What’s up with that? Either he knows the GOP is just using the issue to leverage votes and won’t actually do anything about it, or he’s a twisted fool who’s working against his own civil liberties.

The Connecticut Green Party candidate for Senator is funded largely by Republicans. Um…why does the Green Party allow itself to be used by the right wing?

John at Blogenlust realizes why the administration follows one bad Middle East policy decision with another…they’re like gambling addicts at the roulette table.

Hey! A story on the Idaho blogosphere!

Robert Brigham revives some old advice on how to deal with bloggers. Excellent advice for you campaign folks out there.

Orcinus’ excellent analysis of the most recent Seattle shooting: hate crime or act of terror? Or both?

San Diego woman sues city to remove seals from a “family beach.” Why? Because they do icky things, like give birth.

Ned Lamont on the Colbert Report.

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