Anecdotal Evidence .

Saturday, November 25, 2006

A Modest Proposal

Now that the midterm congressional elections are behind us, I suppose it is time to focus on the 2008 presidential election and the issues which are or will become associated with it.
Just so, I read the other day that Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, himself a healthy runner for the Republican nomination, took the occasion of the Thanksgiving holiday season to remind Americans that among the important issues facing us – issues like the continuing death and destruction in Iraq, the millions of Americans with inadequate health care, the astronomical national debt, the precarious imbalance in the environment, and so on – is the pressing need for a constitutional amendment against gay marriage. I suppose that, like Romney, other presidential aspirants have already spoken out on this issue, but I am sure that, in any case, all of them will have far more to say about it in the hours, days, weeks, and months ahead.

Clearly, gay marriage is an issue that is going to generate a lot of heat over the next two years, and so it behooves all of us to think about it carefully. Speaking for myself, I have already given this question generous thought, and I am moved now to offer this modest proposal.

It seems to me that, whether or not it makes sense to amend the constitution so as to ban marriage among gays, what the nation needs to do first is adopt an amendment banning divorce. If you will think about it, I am confident you will agree that a constitutional amendment against divorce makes a lot more sense than a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, and what's more, it is far more likely to be successful because it meets, even trumps, all the arguments for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage.

Consider this. One of the principal, and surely most often articulated, arguments offered in support of the anti-gay marriage amendment is that gay marriage is an abomination before God. Now, I claim no authority to speak about what is or is not an abomination to God, but fortunately we have among us religious experts, priests and preachers and pastors, men and women with unquestioned theological credentials, who are qualified to do so, and, drawing support from the Bible and other sacred sources, they all seem to agree that scripture argues against gay marriage.

That being so, I am certain that these men and women of the cloth will recognize and agree quicker and better than any of us, that scriptural statements on the subject of homosexuality generally and gay marriage specifically, are nowhere near as clear, authoritative, or conclusive as the scriptural injunctions against divorce, the most powerful of which resides squarely in the Gospels, where, asked for his opinion about divorce, Jesus replies unequivocally, "What God has joined let no man put asunder". That one statement alone, and there are numerous others extolling the sanctity of marriage elsewhere in the Bible and in virtually all sacred texts of virtually all religious traditions, packs more punch than all the biblical arguments against marriage between homosexuals. At least, so it seems to me, and if so, here we have a clear-as-crystal scriptural basis on which can rest a campaign for a constitutional amendment banning divorce.

Another frequently heard argument for a ban on gay marriage is that gay marriage threatens the fabric of society. Simply put, the argument is that families are the glue that holds society together, and who can argue that? Without families, without mothers and fathers, brothers and sisters, aunts and uncles, we are just a crowd of strangers. And, let's face it, union between a man and a woman is what makes families possible; that is an unmistakable, irreversible biological fact of life. Thus, America is about dad and mom and the kids all living together under one roof, eating together at the kitchen table, playing together in the living room. What a majestic image that is, an image that evokes love and pride in country.

But here's the thing. That image, wondrous as it is, unmistakably offers a far more compelling argument for a constitutional amendment banning divorce than for a constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. After all, there is no force on the planet that threatens the American family more surely than divorce. It is the very nature of divorce, the unavoidable effect and consequence of divorce, that it unglues the family. To unglue the family is the purpose of divorce. So, if we want a constitutional amendment protecting families in America, an amendment banning divorce is where we should start.

A question related tangentially to this issue is its potentially discriminatory nature. A Google search finds that the census numbers concerning gays in America are fuzzy, ranging from 1% to 10%, but however measured, they are a small minority. Therefore, almost by definition, any legislation which targets them alone is going to be discriminatory, and after the polarization of American society we have all experienced in recent years, clearly now is not the time to inject additional divisiveness. But happily, an amendment banning divorce avoids that problem altogether. The same Google search reveals that fifty percent of marriages in America end in divorce, and that divorced Americans are a quarter or more of the population. Thus, amending the constitution to ban divorce has no significant minority implications.

Similarly, gay marriage is essentially an incidental phenomenon, affecting only those individuals who are party to it. The effects of divorce, on the other hand, are felt not only by those immediately involved, but potentially by numerous other sectors of our society, including the school system, health and human services facilities, the criminal justice system, and so on.

Further, divorce in America today has none of the stigma that homosexuality does. As a child, I remember my parents used to whisper about a friend or neighbor who was getting divorced; divorce was not a subject for open discussion in polite society. All of that has gone, and there is now no shame or reluctance of any kind associated with revealing oneself as being divorced or the product of divorce, no "coming out of the bedroom", as it were. In today's jargon, there are no "political correctness" aspects to this issue. Therefore, the national political discussion that will inevitably and properly surround consideration of such an amendment in the Congress and among the several States will not bring with it any of the discomfort that would accompany such an exercise concerning a ban on gay marriage.

There are numerous other reasons why a constitutional ban on divorce makes far more sense than a constitutional ban on gay marriage, not the least convincing of them concerns the children of divorce – their health, their welfare, their education, their long term adaptability, the costs they represent to society, and so on. But I hope it is sufficient here for me simply to offer the proposal, in all modesty, and to allow wiser minds than mine to flesh it out.

A final postscript: Consider that a constitutional ban on divorce dovetails nicely with the current campaign to reduce litigation in the United States. While I have been unable to find any figures to support this statement, it seems to me self-evident that a lot of the litigation in this country must be related to divorce issues. Eliminating divorce eliminates those cases.