In celebration of the California Supreme Court’s decision to strike down laws baring same-sex marriage, I have pulled the transcript of my first radio commentary from the archives. This commentary was broadcast in February of 2000. An extended version of this commentary ran on Beliefnet, opposite a piece by James Dobson, who–naturally–supported California’s Proposition 22, which provided for a strictly heterosexual definition of marriage in California
Soon Californians will be privileged to vote on a ballot initiative, dubbed Proposition 22, which, if passed, would enact a statute whose entire wording, written in ten point font, could fit inside a fortune cookie: Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California.
And so it is that our own dear state which gave the nation the Free Speech Movement, the legalization of medical marijuana and Boogie Nights now stands poised, at the cusp of a new millennium, ready to position itself in the avant garde of the Reactionary Right.
I am troubled by the statue proposed in California’s Proposition 22 and by other laws like it. I am troubled because they are unnecessary, unjust, and unnecessarily unjust, and I am troubled because they are presented to the voters as a means of defending the institution of heterosexual marriage.
Of course, marriages should be defended. As a husband and as a clergyman I am familiar with some of the things that threaten marriage, and legally binding commitments between persons of the same sex are not among the marital hazards I’ve encountered. Marriages are threatened by violence, neglect and greed; selfish ambitions, addictions and a co-worker’s rakish smile all present a clear and present danger to matrimony’s honorable estate. My own marriage, at times, is threatened because I can remember esoteric bits of historical trivia that I learned as a child but I cannot remember to pick up milk on the way home from work, yet I know of no connubial relationship that has ever been degraded by persons of the same gender lovingly and steadfastly entering into a life-long marital covenant.
Either way it goes, the outcome of the vote on Proposition 22 may threaten the American sense of liberty, privacy and fairness; the idea that a state’s rights are moderated by it’s inclusion in a union of states, a concept decided in American blood during the Civil War, hangs in the balance, but marriage, that always endangered yet ever hopeful institution will go on as it always has, unchanged, complete with the suffering it imposes on some of us, the joy and love it bestows on most of us, and the complex goodness it brings to all of us.