Originally posted Thursday, October 28, 2004:
Someone has decided that marriage needs defense. It’s rather nice that so many people care enough about marriage to defend it, but at the same time it’s a bit disturbing that so many married people feel it needs defending. Anyway, a number of people have decided that marriage must be defended against the threat posed by same-sex couples who might want to get married.
Personally, I’ve always used the term “marriage” to refer to the union between one man and one woman. Men and women are so different that marriage is really a sort of miracle. And it provides an important sign by showing that love can overcome even those differences: no wonder religions generally regard marriage as a sign of God’s love for us. So I’ll confess that it bothers me a bit that same-sex couples want to use the same term to describe their version of a life-long union; part of me thinks that they should find their own word for it.
But the self-assigned defenders of marriage aren’t concerned about terminology; they oppose anybody except one man and one woman having access to a legally-recognized, committed union. Apparently they think that they are somehow hurt by the happiness of a same-sex couple.
Despite my own reservations, I’ve come to the conclusion that linguistic niceties pale in comparison with the intolerance displayed by the religious right. Like censors who think they can make choices for others, “defense of marriage” proponents seem to feel qualified to decide who will relate to whom and how.
They’ve come up with two varieties of these proposals. The first is a proposed amendment to the US Constitution. Since the Constitution is mute on marriage, and since courts have ruled that the decision of whom to marry is a private matter, the religious right has decided that the only way to dictate who gets to clean whose socks is to amend the Constitution. Since it’s generally regarded as an impossible proposal, it’s really a nonissue; but that doesn’t keep right-wing candidates from using it to pander to the fears of social conservatives.
Here in Ohio, the second attack is a proposed amendment to the Ohio Constitution. Unlike the federal proposal, this one actually has a chance to pass, and that makes it more dangerous. The Ohio proposal, Issue 1 on this year’s ballot, consists of two sentences. The first defines marriage as the union between one man and one woman; Ohio law already does that, so this part of the amendment is superfluous.
The second sentence, however, carries its real payload: “This state and its political subdivisions shall not create or recognize a legal status for relationships of unmarried individuals that intends to approximate the design, qualities, significance, or effect of marriage.” It would deny not only civil unions but parental, survivorship, and visitation rights to all except traditionally-married couples.
I believe in marriage. It bothers me to see so many children born to single parents, and it bothers me even more to see what appears to be a rash of celebrities producing children without first providing for them by making the commitment that marriage requires. But passing Issue 1 won’t defend marriage. What it will do, if passed, is to make Ohio even less attractive as a residence or an employer than it already is.
Because it appeals to the teachings of some religions–and also because intolerance has plenty of advocates in Ohio–Issue 1 has organized support. Polls indicate that it has a fair chance of passing. As far as I can tell, the opposition isn’t organized; but on their own, most mainstream labor, employer, and civic groups in Ohio have decided to oppose Issue 1. Virtually all Democratic public officials oppose it, along with most Republican public officials.
No matter whom you support in the other races, take the opportunity on November 2 to vote against intolerance. If you’re an Ohio voter, vote against Issue 1.