Gay marriage has been running through my head a great deal in the last several weeks. (Hard for it not to, when you both work at a newspaper and have many friends of alternate sexuality.)
One of the main secular arguments that conservatives advance to oppose gay marriage is that it will "destroy marriage." The snappy answer to this -- "Anyone out there getting a divorce if gays are allowed into the club? Anyone? Show of hands?" -- is, I think, largely correct, but in some ways it is also attacking a straw man.
The problem is that the traditional conservative line of attack is not that it will destroy existing marriages, but that it will by some magical mechanism cause unmarried people to think less of it. I find this line of reasoning equally unpersuasive -- "Uh, Mabel, you know, we're standing in line behind ... you know ... a gay couple. Maybe we should forget the tax breaks, legal rights, and societal approval and just go home" -- but the fact remains that that's the party line.
I've been giving this some thought, and an idea just crystallized.
As a person of conscience, I would like to think of myself as someone willing to take a stand for social justice, even if it's personally inconveniencing. I want to be able to send a message, such as by going to San Francisco and lining up for the altar. But I'm not gay. I am, as I explained to the reporters in SFO when I visited to pass out chocolates to newlyweds, "mildly bi" at best, and my last several relationships have been with members of the opposite gender.
And it hit me: What this means is that I am a prime candidate for the traditional definition of marriage. I do have a protest voice. What could send more of a message than having the ability to get married -- and refusing?
If the conservatives want to talk up the Federal Marriage Amendment by warning that the alternative is "destroying marriage" for unwed heterosexuals, how powerful of a rebuttal would it be for opponents to hold up a list of hundreds of thousands of names, and say, "For these unwed heterosexuals, YOU are destroying marriage"?
Fortunately, it looks as though the FMA is dead on arrival -- there are at least 36 confirmed "no" votes in the Senate, and it requires two-thirds majorities from both branches of Congress. But I would be very surprised if this is the last word in the battle, especially if (God forbid) Bush claws out another four-year reign.
Such a protest may be needed yet. And I'm wondering if there are enough unwed* straights willing to speak up out there to give this critical mass.
As for me, I have a certain special someone to discuss this with before I can give an unambiguous yes, but I would be proud to call myself among that crowd.
(* Not to exclude couples, but divorce as a protest measure has far more drastic consequences, and I'm not certain I'd recommend it unless an amendment looks unavoidable.)