Janice Eisen: "Intolerance should not be written into Wisconsin's constitution"

Janice M. Eisen from Brookfield has a wonderful, no-nonsense op-ed against the ban in today's Journal Sentinel.

She believes Wisconsin will be the first state to beat back one of these bans, and she pushes hard against the illogic of the ban supporters:

The belief that homosexual behavior is wrong is a religious one. It may be held by a majority of the population at present, but that doesn't entitle it to constitutional protection any more than, say, the belief that baptism is required for salvation.

Those who argue that opposition to same-sex marriage has other than a religious basis take several tacks. One is that allowing homosexual couples to marry devalues "traditional" marriage, which as we know is already on the endangered list.

These people seem to view same-sex marriage as some sort of mockery of heterosexual marriage. In fact, the desire of gay couples to marry - to make the same binding, legal commitment to each other that heterosexual couples do - is a sign of how much they respect the institution of marriage.

I would think marriage proponents would want to encourage the idea that when you love someone very much, you should marry that person.

Others suggest that permitting gay couples to marry would open the floodgates. If marriage can be defined as a union between two men, the argument goes, then why not three men? Or one man and three women? If we can change the sexes, why not the numbers?

This argument is specious. Same-sex marriage is not akin to polygamy. As in any marriage, each partner commits to be only with the other partner, forsaking all others.

In a polygamous marriage, partners of one sex -- usually the women -- may commit to forsake all others for one spouse, but the partner of the other sex does not. That is truly an essential difference.

Some try to argue that the current definition of marriage is based on natural law, often claiming that the one man-one woman arrangement has been around since the beginning of civilization. These people are either ignorant or lying.

As anyone who has read the Old Testament knows, polygamy was very much the rule in ancient times. Even those who quote Leviticus most fervidly do not argue that we should return to that traditional arrangement.

When the joining of one man to one woman did become common, it was a contractual arrangement in which a woman and her dowry were given to the husband by her father. Marriage was, and still is in many cultures, about property rights. Men often sought their satisfying personal relationships elsewhere.

The modern ideal of the love match -- or "traditional marriage," as its proponents like to call it -- is of recent vintage. Yet it has enough appeal to have swept gay couples into its spell. This is cause for celebration, not condemnation.

None of these arguments against same-sex marriage holds up. The opposition comes down to religion or a personal aversion to homosexual behavior -- neither of which justifies a constitutional ban.

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