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I say, we will have no more marriages

May 19, 2008 |  5:29 pm

Same-sex marriage has been approved by the California courts for several days now, and I'm still waiting (with a thrilling mix of terror and curiosity) for that nightmare scenario where the government forces me to marry a man.

Is it good for John McCain? Bad for Barack Obama? Is it weird that McCain remains shy about the issue, while Obama is now talking about his own (straight) marriage, and Hillary Clinton stakes out a position of carefully crafted snooze-inducement? For more on the issue, dig the Pew Forum's gay marriage resources page.

But above all, be sure to check out our Dust-Up on gay marriage, which features attorneys on both sides of the California case speaking now and never holding their peace. It's also bringing out a legion of reader comments that are vehement, charged and interesting, even if some of them give you a sense of deja vu (claims that gays want "special rights": check; arch references to how many miserable heterosexual marriages end in divorce: check; people marrying their dogs: check; all the gay couples I know are nice because I'm so open-minded: check). Good stuff all around!

One personal confession: I've always had two journalistic reservations with the whole gay marriage issue. The first is that it's practically impossible to come up with an illustration for a gay marriage story that is not either two men embracing, two women embracing or a wedding cake with two grooms on top. The second is that I've always found the people I agree with on this issue (pro-gay marriage) to be completely boring, and the people I disagree with (anti-gay marriage) fairly interesting.

And I think that's because the restrictionists are the only ones who focus (often to the point of obsession) on sexual desire. They may be hysterical with their warnings that polyamory, bestiality and incest will be coming once gay marriage is approved. But at least they take lust seriously, as something dangerous, destabilizing, contentment-destroying, subversive, uncontrollable, and all the other things we know it to be.

The pro-gay-marriage folks, on the other hand, have a unique skill for making sexual desire seem routine, dull and technical. Framing the issue solely as a matter of group rights leaves out what defines the group in the first place. If your only interest is in a stable and amicable relationship, then the gender of the other partner shouldn't matter at all. The point is to have a relationship with somebody you desire sexually. If your mode of sexual desire seems menacing to the straights, that's a function of the straights' narrowmindedness. But how interested can we be in outsiders whose aim is not to blow up the narrowmindedness of the straights but to join in it? Gay marriage supporters trip over themselves in their hurry to declare that polygamists or polyandrists or other sexual renegades can never be welcome in good society.

As a political tactic, that rush to conformism makes sense, but I fear it's more than just an act. If I learned anything during my long San Francisco sojourn, it's that gays can be every bit as boring and conservative as straights. Now I don't demand that anybody has to become a bomb-thrower just to get the tax breaks and other privileges straight couples enjoy. But it would be nice for somebody to acknowledge that gay marriage would be worth supporting even (or especially) if it did lead to the parade of horribles, or some consenting-adults portion of that parade, that opponents find so scary and so fascinating.

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