Which Union Under God?

The State of the Union Address has a long and storied history. Established by the Constitution, the State of the Union was to be given from time to time by the president as a means of outlining goals to preserve the union. I find it ironic then that in President Bush’s latest address to the people he outlined his desire to destroy the most personal and important union of all — the union between two people.

George W. Bush leapt even further into the religious right’s pocket this week when he announced unequivocally that “our nation must defend the sanctity of marriage.” In this, he’s referring to quashing growing support for state-sanctioned same-sex marriages.

And the support has been slow going. In 1993, Hawaii ruled a denial of gay marriages unconstitutional only to have the legislature quickly ban it. Last November, a Massachusetts judge ruled same-sex marriages legal. Not surprisingly, Republican governor Mitt Romney is poised to support the same draconian steps to deny his constituents something they’re entitled to.

Common sense dictates that all people are equal under the law. Gay citizens contribute to the workforce and social fabric just as much as anyone else. There’s no logical reason the government can deny two people the right to pursue happiness (or misery, depending on your take on marriage) — it’s spelled out right there in the preamble to the Constitution.

But that’s exactly what Bush is trying to do. In a double whammy, he’s trying to force his religious views on the people of the United States while diminishing the power of the state. A proposed amendment to the Constitution would ban gay marriages all across the country and $1.5 billion in federal aid would aim to promote and salvage “traditional” marriages.

What is it about gay people getting married that pisses so many people off?

The answer is simple: intolerance. But marriage has been since its inception a means of promoting social and economic control. A woman wouldn’t marry for love in ancient times, she’d marry because her father wanted protection, or access to better grazing land. In medieval times, a wedding quelled disputes and strengthened alliances.

Even today, marriage is used as a political tool. Do you fit into the societal norm? Here’s a wedding license and a nice tax cut. Oh, by the way, you’re also now entitled to your spouse’s access to benefits and a tidy compensation if things don’t work out.

You’re gay? Forget about having a say in your partner’s medical treatment, even though you’re the closest thing he or she has to a family. And even though your hillbilly cousin can get married for the fourth time to another toothless yokel, you won’t even qualify as “taken” by the government. You’re relegated to a perpetual single life, courtesy of your government.

As a married man, I believe anyone who’s willing to sanction their love with state approval should be able to embrace without political interference.

I like to think of myself as a strong American, and I certainly value the institution of marriage. That’s why I find it so troubling that people who have a commitment to one another despite the enormous built-in social backlash and who want to sign on the dotted line that they’re wife and wife (or husband and husband) are being turned away.

These people understand the sanctity of what marriage is as well as any heterosexual couple. It is a union of love, not a branch of the government that dictates togetherness. Gay people are allowed to adopt children together, something that’s even more intense and personal than any wedding. Why not let these parents have a civil union?

Opponents of gay marriage charge it’s a religious ceremony. Fine. If a church wants to forbid a gay wedding under its strictures, let the state perform the civil service necessary to provide same-sex couples. If it’s such a huge state issue, remove the religious implications completely.

Unfortunately, marriage in the United States simply isn’t capable of serving as a strictly religion ceremony. By inviting tax breaks and other benefits to people that engage in something that under the Constitution is meant to be wholly separate from the affairs of the state, a huge violation has been visited upon American citizens.

I do not understand the paranoia and frustration that this topic elicits. Why does the government have a right to dole out favoritism based on what gender you like to bang? If George Bush genuinely thinks that the fabric of civilization is frayed and promoting marriage is its only hope, why target the dregs instead of those who want to take the ultimate step?

The saddest reminder of social control rests in Dick Cheney. His daughter, Mary, is a lesbian, yet both he and wife Lynne back Bush’s proposed amendment. Why should we take anything the administration says seriously about gay rights when the president’s closest advisor is in complete denial over his daughter’s lifestyle?

In 1996, Bill Clinton signed the Defense Against Marriage Act into law, stating that a marriage can only be between a man and a woman. It was a regressive law then, and it’s not any more contemporary eight years later. Gays deserve the right to get married just as much as two starry-eyed reality show contestants. To say otherwise crumbles the entire argument for the sanctity of union.