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Take a Deep Breath--The American Marriage is Safe and Well

July 1, 2003

The U.S. Supreme Court's ruling in the Lawrence et al v. Texas has caused an embarrassing overreaction from our leading conservative pundits and talk show impresarios. Political savvy gay activists have instead put the court's ruling on state sodomy laws into proper perspective. It was just that. If states want to outlaw what it believes is deviant behavior - bestiality, incest, pedophilia - it can't discriminate. In other words, while the nation is grappling with terrorism and overbearing medical expenses, the court was forced to rule on a sexual act, not a social institution.

It's a huge leap to interpret the ruling as a step towards redefining marriage. Keep this in mind, 35 states have specific definitions of marriage, including the great liberal state of California. In California, the campaign for Proposition 22, the definition of marriage act, was a coalition of individuals and organizations. The voters of California agreed by over 61%, in 53 of California's 58 counties. In the remaining 15 states, six have essentially passed similar marriage definition acts but require procedural work to complete the task. In sum, 42 states have exercised their right to define marriage as the union of a man and a woman.

That doesn't mean that there isn't cause for concern.

There are two facets of the definition of marriage movement. One is the definition, which has been clearly stated in a majority of states. The other is how to treat those who have been 'married' in states that may enact same-sex marriages. Each state must specify how it will recognize marriages performed outside the state that do not me meet the one man-one woman definition in order to be recognized by the state.

Second, the Supreme Court is moving closer to protecting the act of marriage as a fundamental human right. The court in ruling against the prohibition of interracial marriages hinted that the right to marry is a fundamental human right which can't be abridged by the state. In its ruling overturning a Virginia law prohibiting interracial marriages, the court said: "Marriage is one of the 'basic civil rights of man,' fundamental to our very existence and survival...To deny this fundamental freedom on so unsupportable a basis as the racial classifications embodied in these statutes, classifications so directly subversive of the principle of equality at the heart of the Fourteenth Amendment, is surely to deprive all the State's citizens of liberty without due process of law." (Interracial marriages now account for around 1.5 million of the marriages in the U.S. Those numbers are still relatively low in comparison to the total number of U.S. marriages.)

But here too it comes down to the definition of marriage. By using arguments of the absurd, one cannot allow all possible combinations of this fundamental right. Marriage between relatives, marriage between a human and a pet, marriage of one man and several women or visa versa, all cannot be considered 'basic civil rights of man.'

Let's take marriage between related individuals, say, for example, cousins. I suggest you visit the site www.cousincouples.com. From their principles page, "we celebrate the success of loving, supportive relationships between consenting adults. We believe that the common prejudice against cousin relationships and marriages is wrong." Well, only 31 states have statutes prohibiting marriage between couples who are cousins. But as they point out, two thirds of the U.S. population can marry their cousins with certain restrictions. But nearly 56% of the U.S. population live in states that have unrestricted freedom to marry their cousins! Incidentally they point out that Franklin D. Roosevelt, the longest serving US president in history married his cousin (not a first cousin, however they shared the same last name).

It's only one example of bending of the definition of marriage; but in this case, still it's a matter of a man and woman exercising their right to marry..their cousin. Bending the definition of marriage is one thing, transforming the definition of marriage is something far greater and more difficult for those who are advocating same-sex 'marriages.'

Further, the efforts to exact this redefinition is largely symbolic. Returning to California, despite the enacting of domestic partners legislation which extends certain rights to same sex couples (who are not 'married',) only 20,000 couples in a state of 32,000,000 people have registered as domestic partners.

In the end, despite some bending, the American marriage is secured. At the same time, alternative life styles have also been secured by the recent Supreme Court ruling. Such is the case of a pluralistic and diverse society.

Write to Arthur at bruzzone@rightturns.com


Arthur Bruzzone has written over 250 political articles for national and regional media, and has commented on political and urban issues for American and European television and radio networks.  He is an award-winning public affairs television producer/host.His articles and columns have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner, Campaign & Elections Magazine, among other publications. Mr. Bruzzone holds a Masters Degree in Philosophy from C.U.A in Washington , D.C., and a M.B.A. in real estate. He is a returned Peace Corps volunteer serving two years in the Kingdom of Tonga, and the former chair of the San Francisco Republican Party. He is president of a leading real estate investment company in San Francisco.

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