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An ally calls out the anti-gay fundies on marriage

Fellow Bull City resident Frank Hyman, a former member of the Durham City Council — as well as a garden designer, sculptor and writer, wrote me a few days ago, and sent me a piece he wrote for a local paper that he thought you all might like to read.

Grab your helmets! Head for the bunkers! The institution of marriage is under attack!

Ooops. False alarm. Contrary to data based on reality, ministers like Jerry Falwell and Pat Robertson and our royal President Bush believe that the sanctity of marriage is under attack by a tiny percentage of the US population that wants to have a nice wedding with a ceremony, witnesses and some music. And gosh, maybe some dancing. Very threatening stuff–if they’re gay or lesbian.

Recently, a couple of my lady friends went to Canada to get hitched. They were in Canada partly because that nation has approved civil unions for gays and lesbians. They were also there to enjoy a honeymoon at Niagra Falls. So conventional.

James Dobson, a leader in the movement to outlaw such marriages and the head of a group called Focus on the Family, claims on his website that such marriages, or even civil unions, for gays and lesbians are part of a “deeply disturbing reality” and surprisingly says that “Most gays and lesbians do not want to marry each other. That would entangle them in all sorts of legal constraints. Who needs a lifetime commitment to one person?”, he asks. He goes on to say, “The intention here is to create an entirely different legal structure. With marriage as we know it gone, everyone would enjoy all the legal benefits of marriage (custody rights, tax-free inheritance, joint ownership of property, health care and spousal citizenship, and much more) without limiting the number of partners or their gender. Nor would “couples” be bound to each other in the eyes of the law. “

If you feel like you need to re-read that paragraph to understand it better, you’re not alone. Even if you read the whole article I think you will find an incredible lack of internal logic. Best I can make out, Dobson worries that if gays and lesbians have the same rights as heterosexual couples it will somehow lead to old-style Mormon polygamy. Which we already have now thanks to heterosexual pedophiles. Polygamy is illegal and that shows no signs of changing despite Dobson’s nail-biting. He also somehow thinks gay marriage will lead to the collapse of Social Security and the health care system. But he offers no explanation for how this will happen, especially since homosexuals compose as little as between one and five percent of the population, depending on whose numbers you believe.

Another conservative pundit, Stanley Kurtz, claims–with a bit more coherence, but just as much innaccuracy–that the European countries that have allowed civil unions are destroying marriage. An article in the on line magazine Slate by M.V. Lee Badgett dismantles his analysis and shows that in all 9 European countries that allow civil unions, the rate of marriage has risen. Denmark has allowed civil unions the longest–since 1989– and according to Badgett, “heterosexual marriage rates are now the highest they’ve been since the early 1970’s….Furthermore, in the 1990’s divorce rates in Scandinavia remained basically unchanged…Even the conservative governments that came into power have not tried to repeal rights for gay couples in France and Netherlands.”

I think that Falwell, Robertson, Bush and Dobson are right to be concerned about the sanctity of marriage, but the threat comes from our heterosexual brothers and sisters in the form of divorce. In other words, not only has the marriage “horse” has already bolted, but they are trying to shut the door on the wrong barn.Divorce rates among heterosexuals have been on the rise nationally for forty years. Divorce rates have almost doubled just in the last few years among officers returning from Iraq. Even among enlisted men, divorce rates for Iraq vets have gone up 28%. Interestingly, the highest US divorce rates are found in the Red states. Blue states have the lowest rates. And according to a think tank called the Barna Group, two studies have shown that born-again Christians divorce at the same rate as those not born-again.

Which brings us to the question: “What would Jesus say?” About homosexuality Christ is mum. Paul is against homosexuality, but then he also opposes women cutting off their hair and expects them to wear veils in church. I guess there is no law that says a fundamentalist can’t pick and choose which fundamentals to obey and which to let drop. But what Christ does oppose is divorce. Perhaps Christ would suggest that the whole fundamentalist worry about the state of marriage needs to be born again.

Frank Hyman is a lapsed Southern Baptist and is happily approaching his second wedding anniversary.

Thanks, Frank; it’s the kind of awareness and support that is sorely needed.

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Pam Spaulding

Pam Spaulding