If you’re like me, you probably scratched your head a little bit when it was declared that “moral issues” were the most important issue for this election. I understand that in the context of Clinton getting head in the oval office, but what moral issues were there really this year? Well, the primary “Moral” issue cited was gay marriage. And again, if you’re like me, you probably thought, “who cares if gay people get married?” Well it turns out that a lot of people do.
This election cycle, gay marriage was really brought to the forefront, and it was always presented as a “definition of marriage” issue, i.e. marriage should only be between a man and a woman. Okay, again I say, whatever, I don’t care what it’s called as long as gay couples can get the same rights that “married” people can get. But again, how is this a moral issue?
Well, marriage isn’t the moral issue here, being gay is. And this was very slickly dodged in most of the discussions of gay marriage in the media. These days homosexuality is given a great deal of media tolerance, and being homophobic is not looked upon favorably. The real message behind the politics here is simply that many people still believe being gay is immoral, and while public opinion doesn’t allow for that viewpoint to be expressed with much tolerance these days, the issues are still being raised with that motivation.
Gay marriage isn’t a moral issue, it’s a civic issue, just like polygamous marriage is. We outlaw polygamous marriage not because of moral outrage (which is not to say some people are not morally outraged by it), but because of its unacceptable social consequences. Now, one can debate the social consequences of gay marriage, but there is one that stands out that most conservative religious types can’t accept: the mainstream acceptance of gay people. Gay marriage to them represents a level of social integration that is far more threatening than Queer Eye for the Straight Guy. While many people would happily abolish any acceptance of gay culture or behavior, and send gay people back into the closet, many have little problem with gay people as long as they stay confined to clearly demarcated sections of society. But when Bob and Carl from the plant get hitched and move in next to you and your 3 kids, it becomes a different matter.
Now I won’t go into latent homosexuality and that whole mess, which I personally feel is over-hyped anyway. Much homophobia can simply be explained by Xenophobia, the fear of that which is alien. We don’t need much intellectual justification of a fear that is by and large instinctual. Cultural exposure to gay people in the form of shows like Queer Eye, actually do a lot to counter-act this kind of homophobia. The Alien becomes less alien and more like us.
But what got a lot of exposure during the 80s and the AIDs epidemic is what many people today still believe; that gay people are sinners, are dirty, godless, depraved child molesters, are interested in converting our kids into a huge gay army to spread their godless lifestyle over the earth and usher in another roman style fall of civilization. People honestly still believe that. For real. That’s the reason gay marriage is a moral issue rather than a civic issue. Many people believe being gay is immoral.
That opinion has been purposefully avoided in the discussion of gay marriage. The platform has heavily focused on preserving the institution of marriage as it is currently interpreted by many, i.e. between a man and a woman, and pushing off gay couples into civil unions. I doubt even that most people would care if civil unions included many of the rights that marriage currently offers. What is important is keeping the distinction between us and them. Separate but equal.. we’ve heard that before.