Re "Mass. High Court Backs Gay Marriage," Nov. 19: I applaud the foresight of the Massachusetts Supreme Judicial Court's ruling ordering the Massachusetts Legislature to amend that state's statutes to accommodate same-sex marriages.
What terrifies me is that we are poised for some very ugly times ahead. Scouring the television airwaves this morning I heard anti-same-sex marriage "personalities," at different levels of shrillness, refer to the concept of same-sex marriage as being as abhorrent as the concept of slavery. Many of these personalities also referred to gay and lesbian people as the "enemy." Several members of the Republican congressional delegation used terms such as "condemn" to describe their feelings on the ruling.
Lest we forget, we have a real enemy out there, who, on Sept. 11, 2001, mercilessly massacred almost 3,000 of our fellow citizens, gay and straight alike. Terms such as "condemn" are best used in reference to suicide bombings or vituperative anti-Semitic attacks. To turn our own gay brothers, sisters, cousins, fathers, mothers and children into the "enemy," especially in the times we live in, is to do ourselves the largest disservice, and to indulge in an inhumanity that should be beneath our political and social discourse.
President Bush says he wants to "defend the sanctity of marriage." By definition, sanctity is a topic for churches. No court, no law, no constitutional amendment can force a church to sanctify a marriage if it doesn't want to. The sanctity of marriage does not need defense and cannot be affected by governments. Besides, I'm still waiting for someone to explain how a gay marriage could possibly harm anyone else's marriage.
If marriage is to be redefined as a civil rights issue then how about a marriage with three people, between an adult and a child, between two children, between siblings, between a father and daughter and any number of other variances? Marriage is and has been a union between a man and a woman. In some cultures, it has various forms -- but in this country it should remain as the legal union of a man and a woman. Other affiliations can have other names, such as "domestic partnership," for such benefits as medical insurance, joint tenancy and other benefits accorded married persons.
What I would like Douglas Kmiec (Commentary, Nov. 19) to tell us is this: What does he fear he will lose if gays are allowed to marry? His marriage will not suddenly disintegrate. His children will not be forced to marry a same-sex partner. He won't even be forced to change his loathing for gays. The fact that more people will marry can't possibly undermine the institution. The fact that more kids are in legally recognized families can't possibly undermine the family. What would change is that gays would no longer be second-class citizens. Gays are the last "untouchables." Murderers and child molesters can marry and this doesn't undermine the family or the institution of marriage, but let two men marry? The sky is truly falling.
If you like Kmiec's arguments against gay marriage, then you had better think about liking female circumcision, the burka, male-only suffrage, bans on miscegenation and any number of other repugnant forms of discrimination that self-proclaimed defenders of culture have supported.
Democracy lives by making a place for legally protected equality in the midst of inherited custom. It is now time to recognize that sexual orientation does not define marriage or family. All idealizations aside, there is nothing magical about heterosexual marriage to ensure that it will contribute uniquely to the "moral formation of children" or "accountability to family" -- unless one has determined beforehand that all moral families are straight. To define marriage by the possibility of procreation is to reduce this hallowed cultural institution to a matter of genital intimacy. As for the goal of making "intimate sexual activity orderly and socially accountable," I hope that all readers recognize exactly how chilling a goal this is.