(from politicians who want to save the sanctity of marriage)
Like swallows to Capistrano, George Lucas to new versions of the old Star Wars trilogy, or dogs to their own vomit, so, in contentious and uncertain times, do intellectually bankrupt demagogues return to the issue of same-sex marriage. Because there's nothing quite like demonizing gays to galvanize the base — especially when budget deficits are up, poll numbers are down, and political minds are otherwise empty.
Much as Bill Frist, George W. Bush, and all the rest of the devout, compassionate, love-thy-neighbors-as-long-as-they're-straight crowd did in 2004 and again in 2006, and much as our State Senate Judiciary Committee did last year, one grandstanding politician — by which I mean, one closeted bigot — has decided it's time to worry about what horrors might befall us if two men or women in love were allowed to marry and claim a couple of extra tax deductions. Our economy's sputtering, our infrastructure's going to hell, and our state legislature is still the size of mainland China — don't even get me started on the property assessment mess or the state-wide pension fund crises — but State Senator John Eichelberger thinks the real threat to the health and welfare of the commonwealth is the prospect that gays might somehow destabilize the sacred institution of marriage with an “activist movement” that has lately claimed the souls of those degenerate hedonists in Iowa.
Still, in some strange, benefit-of-the-doubt sort of way, in the always gracious spirits of tolerance and of acceptance, let's try to understand what our esteemed State Senator is thinking. If the name of his upcoming bill -- the Marriage Amendment -- is any indication, it seems he doesn’t really want to discriminate against an entire class of people; he just wants to save what little is left of the rapidly diminishing sanctity of marriage. And for that, who can blame him?
After all, the institution of marriage is already less stable than the San Andreas Fault; one more tectonic shift, and the whole ritual might just crumble into a bleak and sinful sea of indifference. When American marriages last, on average, less than two full gubernatorial terms, and when the number of American divorces in a year is roughly the same as the number of dollars you can win on Deal or No Deal (now with a bonus round: Custody or No Custody!), maybe it's time to do something radical to save it.
If that's what he really wants to do — and not, you know, marginalize a whole class of people — then I have the perfect plan to do it. We'll just see, as they say on all the big-game sports telecasts, who wants it more.
First, we keep heterosexual marriage as is. Then we legalize homosexual marriage. And then, for a period of five years, we track the status and chart the progress of all new marriages, both homosexual and heterosexual, in the commonwealth.
Who's living happily? Who's having trouble? Who's seeking help? Who's beyond help? Who's separated? Who's divorced? Who's killed their spouses and dumped their bodies in the nearest body of water? We could even go national and solve this infernal, infuriating, every-damned-election-year problem once and for all.
Think of the drama. Think of the intrigue. Think of the ratings.
It could become our next great pop culture infotainment obsession. Instead of just covering celebrity marriages, the morning shows and news magazines could track all marriages: Tom Cruise and Katie Holmes were divorced yesterday, Matt, but there's good news from Scranton, Pennsylvania: Lisa Williams and Mary Johnson just celebrated their second anniversary together! Score one for the lesbians!
We could even turn it into a new reality show: American Marriage. Or maybe Survivor: Wedding Bed Edition. Ryan Seacrest could host. Charlie Sheen, Elizabeth Taylor, and Simon Cowell could be the celebrity judges. The show would start with, say, six heterosexual and six homosexual couples. Each week, viewers could call in and eliminate one couple based on their appearance, their taste in clothes, their ability to sing show tunes, or their intimate knowledge of each other's annoying personal habits. It would be like a new-age Newlywed Game with better production values and a more annoying host. The show's web site could offer at-home, behind-the-scenes video (watch Adam and Steve fight over who left the toilet seat up!) of all the contestants, and we could even track all the stats in a special newspaper section: Couples, sort of a cross between the Sports, the Magazine section, and the Obituaries.
All those things would, of course, be just window dressing. Happy diversions to keep us entertained until we come to the truly important competition. Because we know that the real threat to the sanctity of marriage isn't who's getting married; it's who's getting divorced.
The true test — and so the true cultural impact — of this plan would come at the end of those five years. We'd do one final status check of every couple married during the trial period, then tabulate the statistics. Whichever group — The Hammerin' Heteros or The Hellacious Homos — produced the lower divorce rate would be crowned the winners. The Ultimate Matrimonial Champions. The true and shining guardians of our most sacred cultural institution. And then, after a little time, a lot of fun, and some simple arithmetic, all the great debate and demonization would finally be over. Because we would know for certain, once and for all and forever and ever amen, which kind of couple poses the true threat to the sanctity of marriage.
To make it even more interesting, and to be sure the debate never flared up again — you know, the next time some do-nothing politician needed to throw a little red meat to the open-mouthed, closed-minded masses — the competition would be winner take all.
If The Hammerin' Heteros win, we amend not just the state but the U.S. Constitution to define marriage as the most high and holy union of a man and a woman. If The Hellacious Homos pull off the upset, we amend the Constitution to define marriage as a grand and glorious union of the same sexes. It would be a neat, clean, field-tested, results-oriented, can't-argue-with-the numbers, they-left-it-all-on-the-field-and-in-the-bedroom, that's-why-they-play-the-game-and-test-the-commitment-of-the-orientations kind of resolution.
It would be fun, it would be fair, and it would be final. End of debate. End of story. End of relentless political pandering.
What do you say, Senator Eichelberger? U.S. Senators and Congressmen? All you other fire-breathing cultural caretakers? Wanna put your marriages where your mouths are?
I'm guessing you don't. For many reasons. Not the least of which is that, if we actually held that competition, we all know who would win.
(For those of you who haven’t figured it out yet, here’s a hint: It wouldn't be the side that has already driven marriage so far into disrepair that an influx of loving, monogamous homosexual couples may be the last, best chance to save it.)