As New York and New Jersey gear up to be the next battlegrounds in "defense of marriage" I am more and more struck by the emotional edge to so much of the opposition to same-sex marriage. After the Iowa decision, I read comments from opponents filled with bitterness, people literally weeping in anguish.
The time is long past to pretend that homophobia is not the underlying issue here. Defined as "an irrational fear of homosexuality" I can't help but see the label sticks. The shoe fits so well that the sole is almost worn through. And for those who claim using this term is a discussion-stopper, let me know when the discussion has begun.
It's no use trying to have a rational discussion when people are acting irrationally. It is difficult to encourage people not to be afraid when they are acting in fear. And these two components of the homophobia complex are clearly in play in the current go-round.
One need not look far to find fear and irrationality: the rushed-to-market video ad from the National Organization for Marriage is a superb example. Don't tell me no fear is involved in the portrayal of a near-apocalyptic thunderstorm in the background, as well as in the whining complaints of the actors. Who feel the need to "defend" against something of which they have no fear?
Then there's the irrationality, the emotionality, of the responses. Of course, there is also the lying. Check out a video that unmasks the falsehoods and false witness behind NOM's bathetic ad. Why is it that supposedly upstanding citizens and self-proclaimed Christians will violate such a basic ethical and moral principle as "thou shalt not bear false witness" in their misguided defense of the institution of marriage? Why claim to be taking the moral high ground by digging in the basement? Something is afoot when people violate such basic ethical keystones of their own creed.
Which brings me to my last thoughts on this: What are they really afraid of? What marriages are in need of defense?
I think they are showing the fear so basic to human nature in the knowledge of its own weaknesses:
If this were to become acceptable I'm afraid it might become compulsory. Remember Dodgson's little girl: "I'm so glad I don't like asparagus, because if I did like it I should have to eat it, and I can't bear it."
If this were to become acceptable, I might actually be forced to face my own inner conflicts and desires, which I lack the power to control. Saint Paul would have recognized this. He also knew the power of amazing grace, to overcome his fears.
So what marriages really need defending? Perhaps the ones in which the husband or the wife are living in the closet or on the down-low, and they fear that greater toleration of what they conceal may open the doors or raise its visibility. How much of the fear is internalized homophobia? We may never know. On second thought, I think we will, some day. When the books are opened, and what is said in secret is shouted from the rooftops, it will be known. It will all be known.
Tobias Stanislas Haller BSG