Two weddings, a divorce and ‘Glee’

Posted by Frank Rich on

"June is America’s month for weddings, and were we so inclined, we could bemoan Limbaugh, an idol to the family-values crowd, for marrying a woman barely half his age. Alternatively, we could lament Al and Tipper Gore’s divorce, which has produced so many cries of shock you’d think they were the toy bride and groom atop a wedding cake rather than actual flesh-and-blood people capable of free will. But let’s refrain from such moralistic hand-wringing. The old truth remains: We never know what goes on in anyone else’s marriage, and it’s none of our business. Here’s a toast to happiness for the Gores and Limbaughs alike, wherever life takes them.

"But there is a shadow over marriage in America just the same. The Gores and Limbaughs are free to marry, for better or for worse, and free to enjoy all the rights (and make all the mistakes) that marriage entails. Gay and lesbian couples are still fighting for those rights. That’s why the most significant marital event of June 2010 is the one taking place in San Francisco this Wednesday, when a Federal District Court judge is scheduled to hear the closing arguments in Perry v. Schwarzenegger, the landmark case challenging Proposition 8, California’s freedom to marry ban. A verdict will soon follow, setting off an appeals process that is likely to land in the Supreme Court, possibly by the 2011-12 term.

"When the former Bush v. Gore legal adversaries, Ted Olson and David Boies, teamed up to mount the assault on Prop 8, it was front-page news. But you may not know much about the trial that followed unless you made a point of finding out as it unfolded in January. Their efforts in this case, unlike the 2000 election battle, were denied the essential publicity oxygen of television. The judge had planned to post video of the proceedings daily on YouTube, but the Prop 8 forces won a 5-to-4 Supreme Court ruling to keep cameras out.

Their stated reason for opposing a television record was fear that their witnesses might be harassed. But in the end the Prop 8 defenders mustered only two witnesses, just one of them a controversial culture warrior. That 'expert' was David Blankenhorn, president of the so-called Institute for American Values. Blankenhorn holds no degree in such seemingly relevant fields as psychology, psychiatry or sociology. But his pretrial research did include reading a specious treatise by George Rekers, the antigay evangelist now notorious for his recent 10-day European trip with a young male companion procured from And Blankenhorn’s testimony relies on the same sweeping generalization as Rekers — that children raised by two biological parents are so advantaged that all alternatives should be shunned. 

... "Gays are far from the only Americans still facing discrimination, but as Boies said when I interviewed him about the Prop 8 case last week, the ban on marriage equality 'is the last area in which the state is taking an active role in enforcing discrimination.' And though some — including Elton John, of all people — have claimed that civil unions are tantamount to marriage and remedy marital inequality, that is a canard.

Domestic partnerships and equal economic benefits aren’t antidotes, Boies explains, because as long as gay Americans are denied the same right to marry as everyone else, they are branded as sub-citizens, less equal and less deserving than everyone else. That government-sanctioned stigma inevitably leaves them vulnerable to other slights and discrimination, both subtle and explicit. The damage is particularly acute for children, who must not only wonder why their parents are regarded as defective by the law but must also bear this scarlet letter of inferiority when among their peers.

... "What fuels Boies’s hope for a just resolution is his faith in America itself. 'This country is a culture of equality,' he says. 'We’ve got that baked into our collective American soul.' He observes that attitudes continue to change fast on gay rights and that the approval rate for legalizing the freedom to marry — up to 47 percent in a Washington Post poll in February — is far higher than the approval was for interracial marriage (20 percent) even a year after the Supreme Court ruled it legal in 1967.

... "We’ve come a long way in a short time, but as the [Lara] Embry case exemplifies, glee for gay people in America still does not match 'Glee' on Fox. Until the law catches up to the culture, the collective American soul should find even June’s wedding Champagne a bit flat."

Click to read the full post: [Link]