[Moving picture of popcorn]

Laramie Movie Scope:
Protect families:
Allow same sex marriage!

You say you want to protect the holy institution of marriage? One way to do that, and protect millions of children, is to legalize same-sex marriages

[Strip of film rule]
by Robert Roten, Film Critic
[Strip of film rule]

August 31, 2004 -- One thing that has galvanized the religious right in the current political campaign is the prospect of a constitutional amendment to outlaw gay marriage in the United States, regardless of state or local laws. This is favored by President Bush and is opposed by presidential challenger John Kerry. Many Christians feel threatened by gay marriage. Their argument is that same-sex marriage will weaken the institution of marriage, one of the very foundations of an orderly society.

There is no proof for this belief, of course. It is just an expression of the fear that society is going to crumble because of the immoral influence of homosexuals. It seems to me the argument is a non sequitur. The conclusion does not follow from the premise. It is an assumption. Let's examine it.

It is estimated that up to 12 million children in the United States today live in households with same-sex parents. Because of the current laws, very few of these same-sex parents are married. Because of this, few of these millions of children are covered by over 100 federal laws written specifically to protect children living in a so-called “normal” married, or single-parent household. These unmarried spouses are also left unprotected by the normal marriage contract. Without a legal marriage contract, health benefits may not be assigned, social security payments may be stopped, survivor benefits may be affected, retirement benefits may not be assigned, child custody may be clouded, child support payments can be stopped, etc. This is the problem. What is the solution?

A consitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage would not seem to be the solution. How will it protect these children? It doesn't. It would just make matters worse. This makes this proposal an anti-family amendment. Narrowing the definition of who may marry does not automatically strengthen the institution of marriage. In this case, narrowing the definition would damage some families, including the children.

One way to deal with these under protected children who have same-sex parents is to outlaw these families. You do that by making it illegal for same-sex couples to conceive or adopt children. The courts wouldn't allow this kind of discriminatory limit on conception, so yet another constitutional amendment would be required. This would fit neatly with the constitutional amendment to outlaw same-sex marriages. This, then is a solution, maybe not the final solution to the homosexual “problem,” but a first step. Once the crucial step is taken to deny them parental status, proponents can't even pretend this is not an infringement of civil rights. This issue is not a case of a mere dispute over the definition of marriage. It is clearly a civil rights issue. It is a case of saying, as in Animal Farm, “All people are created equal, but some people are more equal than others.” Courts have ruled this kind of discrimination to be unconstitutional. That leaves the only line of attack for the religious right a constitutional amendment legalizing anti-gay discrimination. This objective is not fundamentally different than supporting a constitutional amendment to outlaw interracial marriage.

The goal of this proposed constitutional amendment is obviously to put homosexuals in their place as second-class citizens. The goal is to limit their participation in society as much as possible, to segregate them. In point of fact, there have been laws passed in a several states to deny same-sex couples the right be foster parents or to adopt children. Arkansas and Utah became the first states to pass laws specifically prohibiting gays and lesbians from becoming foster parents or adoptive parents in 1999. A Florida law banning gay adoptions (without the foster parenting ban) has been on the books since 1977.

Hitler's final solution to the gay problem was to kill homosexuals, along with Jews, gypsies, Catholics, the mentally retarded and other groups deemed undesirable. If the religious right wants to make gays second-class citizens, then why not at least be honest about it, like Hitler was?

The presumption in these adoption and foster care bans is that same-sex couples are inherently immoral, making them bad parents. However, a 20-year study by the American Academy of Pediatrics found that children raised by gay parents were as well-adjusted socially and psychologically as children raised by heterosexual parents. The American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry has also expressed support for gay parenting. Gay couples also provide much-needed homes for children who are waiting for adoption. A San Jose Mercury news story on gay adoption noted one gay couple in Alameda County had a very short wait when adopting children because they were willing to adopt black children and there were some 100,000 children in Alameda County waiting to be adopted, many of them non-white. One would have to be pretty hard core anti-gay saying these kids are better off being kicked around from foster home to foster home “in the system” until they are adults.

The reason that gay marriage is a hot button issue today is because of a recent U.S. Supreme Court decision striking down a number of anti-gay laws. This led to gay activists testing the legality of laws against gay marriage in various states. Their victories are not a consequence of “activist judges,” as is argued by President Bush and his minions. This is a consequence of the fact that the various state governments have not been able to demonstrate to courts that they have a compelling social interest in converting their moral disapproval of some sexual orientations into law. One example where states have been able to legislate this kind of moral disapproval is in the case of pedophilia, because of the threat of child molestation. By the way, child molestation seems to be much more prevalent among heterosexual parents than it is among homosexual parents. In an Indianapolis Star article about gay adoption, Judge Fredrick Spencer is quoted as saying in 17 years on the bench he had seen plenty of cases of child molestation, but never a case involving a known homosexual.

The great science fiction writer Robert Heinlein wrote, “Most gods have the manners and morals of a spoiled child.” This certainly seems true of the old gods. Christ's teachings were very different from the Old Testament God. He preached love, mercy, forgiveness and asceticism, virtues all but abandoned by modern Christianity. These virtues are now considered too wimpy. The modern goal of the new religious right is money and political power. They want to control the White House, Congress and the Supreme Court. They don't use their faith to spread their message, but use the government to force their political agenda. They rely not on God for their security, but on military power. They are in bed with the corporations and the fat cats who want tax cuts that favor corporations and the wealthy. They have allied themselves enthusiastically with warmongers and profiteers. Their lust for riches and blood knows no bounds. President Bush embodies these new “virtues” perfectly. These are not the virtues of Christ, but of the Old Testament God who led his people in war.

Maybe Christianity would not be as popular as it is today in America without the Old Testament God of wrath and jealousy. Bryan P. Hayward wrote recently, ... “there have been fantasy novels in which a god/dess is actually worth worshipping because they do embody the qualities normally ascribed to deities by their worshippers (loving, caring, involved, tolerant, merciful et al) but oddly I don't think they'd get anywhere if someone started a religion around them. For most people, their god has to have some sort of vengeful trait before they bother paying any attention.”

When I read Hayward's note, it reminded me of how the religious right has been energized by the gay marriage issue. For years, nothing has been done legally to combat the spiraling rates of divorce in this country. That is the main thing that has weakened the institution of marriage and put children at risk. I mean we could have some kind of training and education for marriage licenses like we do for drivers licenses couldn't we? Right now no skill, no training, no education needs to be demonstrated in order to get married. Just about any spouse-beating, child-abusing, child molesting homicidal nut can get married. A good example of this is that teacher who molested her 13-year-old student. Now the teacher and the student, who is now an adult, are planning on getting married. There's no law against a pedophile marrying a former victim, it seems, as long as they are both adults. The state doesn't intrude into a marriage until somebody gets beat up or killed, or children are harmed. But now, all of a sudden, when people see a chance to use their political muscle to deny someone else the right to be married, they're full of righteous energy to “save the institution of marriage.” That's the cover story, anyway.

The motives behind this are clear. This is a re-election strategy. The religious right is a big voting block and the Republicans want the lion's share of it. This is a naked exercise in political power, and a chance to exercise control over a whole class of people. The arguments for the same-sex marriage ban are similar to the once-prolific Christian justifications for slavery, segregation, and laws against mixed-race marriages. This puts black religious leaders, especially, in a very uncomfortable situation if they choose to politically support a ban on same sex marriages. They are, in effect saying, “It is wrong to discriminate against us, but it is O.K. to discriminate against them.”

True Christianity flies in the face of the modern, materialistic lifestyle favored by most Americans. It also flies in the face of the religious right's embrace of the Iraq war, patriotism and political power. The early Christians were pacifists, often lived communally and they were apolitical. They did not conquer the Roman empire with political maneuverings, but by converting the emperor of Rome to Christianity after centuries of persecution and sacrifice. On the other extreme, the Roman Catholic church became utterly corrupt during the Dark Ages when it wielded vast political power. If America drifts into a theocracy, it would become just as much of a political basket case as those dysfunctional countries now operating under Islamic law.

Some modern Christian sects, such as the Hutterites, still practice the ancient Christian ideals. They live a communal lifestyle, sharing the wealth, rather than hoarding it, and refuse to participate in wars. Some aspects of early Christianity also persist among the Quakers, among other groups. The Hutterites suffered political persecution during World War I because of their pacifism. Many moved to Canada, but moved back when laws about military service changed to allow conscientious objectors not be forced to kill other people. Obviously, if the beliefs of the Hutterites were universal, the United States could not continue to exist as it does today. The economy depends on heavy consumerism and the military depends on volunteers willing to kill on command.

Mainstream Christianity has adapted itself remarkably well to the the anti-Christian demands of American society. It churns out ravenous consumers, along with a warrior class who are willing to kill whoever the country wants them to kill. Christianity has become intertwined not only with partisan politics, but patriotism. Christ clearly established a spiritual kingdom, not a political one. Modern Christians seek to establish a political kingdom, conquering, rather than converting opponents. Rather than mercy and love, they dispense judgement, backed by a political hammer.

We've come a long way in the past 2,000 years since Christ was around, but we're headed in the wrong direction. Religious television shows like “The 700 Club” flood the airwaves with messages implying that if you will support their ministries (send them money), you will receive the blessings of God's bounty (get even more money back). I actually heard Pat Robertson say the Muslims don't worship the same God as we do. They worship some kind of moon genie. That makes it O.K. to kill those Muslim infidels, I guess. This amateur theology is news to many Islamic theologians. Some American televangelists are overtly supporting President Bush for re-election and doing what they can within non-profit tax code restrictions to get their followers to vote for him. Their support of Bush promises immediate benefits to them, perhaps including lifting some of those troublesome tax code restrictions, and removing some other barriers separating church and state in the areas of education and charity organizations.

In this vast ideological struggle, the same-sex marriage ban is a mere homophobic footnote. It is interesting mainly because it may play a crucial role in the upcoming election. I suspect that eventually, most Christians will get over their homophobia. Remarkable strides have already been made in some churches. The spiritual underpinnings of viewing homosexuality as a sin are thin at best. Part of this doctrine is based on substantial changes made to the Bible by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D. For instance, here is a passage from the Book of John which was removed by that ancient church council:

“But the youth, looking upon him, loved him and began to beseech him that he might be with him. And going out of the tomb they came into the house of the youth, for he was rich. And after six days, Jesus told him what to do and in the evening the youth comes to him, wearing a linen cloth over nakedness. And he remained with him that night, for Jesus taught him the mystery of the Kingdom of God. And thence arising, he returned to the other side of the Jordan.”

I'm not going to get into gay Christian theology here, but there is a pretty good article on the subject of Christian theology regarding gays in which you can read by clicking on this link to The Cornell Daily Sun.

Historically, bigots have used the Bible to justify their bigotry. Whether you want to bash gays, blacks or Jews, you can find some support for your views in the Bible, yet bigotry never wins in the long run. The Bible has proven itself a very flexible document over the last thousand years or so. It will handle this bump, too. Church leaders made up the bulk of the abolitionist movement which ended slavery in America. Church leaders also made up the bulk of the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 1960s that ended America's version of apartheid. They may well be at the forefront of future efforts to extend equal rights to gays and lesbians.

Bush is considered a good Christian leader by the religious right, not specifically because his military decisions have led to the deaths of thousands of Muslims and over 1,000 American troops, or because he lied about the real reasons for the war, or because he dodged the draft during the Vietnam war, or because he has overseen a vast expansion of government power at the expense of personal liberty, or because he's piling up record federal budget deficits, or because his policies threaten to cut Social Security in half, or because he's the first president since Herbert Hoover to preside over a net national job loss in a single four-year term, or because the 9/11 disaster happened on his watch, or because his Iraq policies have made this country's terrorist enemies stronger than they were before the war, or because the Iraq war has driven up the price of oil. No, he's considered a good Christian because he has supports the political ambitions of the religious right. He supports the amendment to outlaw same-sex marriage, he opposes abortion, he supports severe limitations on federal stem cell research. In other words, he's a good Christian because he kills and segregates the right people and because he opposes certain aspects of medical science. For the record, I also oppose abortion on demand, but favor an expansion of stem cell research.

It was noted author Henry Miller who said, “One has to be a lowbrow, a bit of a murderer, to be a politician, ready and willing to see people sacrificed, slaughtered, for the sake of an idea, whether a good one or a bad one.” That certainly describes Bush. He has shown himself willing to slaughter people by the thousands for the sake of a very bad idea, which is what American intrusion into the internal affairs of Iraq has shown itself to be. The war, and particularly its aftermath, is also the best recruiting tool that Osama Bin Laden could hope for. I guess you'd have to balance all that against the lives Bush might save if he succeeds in outlawing abortion. Limitations on stem cell research will probably kill more people than it saves. It is an esoteric battle between the rights of microscopic cells that are currently disposed of, against real (as opposed to potential) people with sometimes deadly medical problems which could be helped or cured by stem cell therapies.

The political ambitions of the religious right appear to be marching us toward theocracy (to be sung to the tune of “Marching to Pretoria”). Even though I am a Christian, I don't believe in trying to legislate spirituality. I believe in the wisdom of our founding fathers in separating church and state. Even though I oppose abortion on demand, I oppose the Republican's attempts to load the Supreme Court with anti-abortion judges. I also oppose any Democrat who would try to load the court with pro-abortion judges for the same reason. This is one of many issues in which this nation needs a better compromise. I would prefer this compromise to be settled outside the courts. The Supreme Court, particularly, has become dangerously political, as demonstrated by its inappropriate intrusion into the 2000 presidential election.

As far as I'm concerned, if homosexuals or lesbians, or whatever shade of gray in between, want to get married, the state has no business forbidding it, just as the state has no business trying to regulate sex between consenting adults. The Supreme Court recently overturned a Texas anti-sodomy law to that effect. This sort of state interference in private matters is exactly the kind of thing that the conservatives in this country used to abhor. It wasn't until the Republican party was able to create an unholy alliance between libertarians and the religious right in the 1980s that such sweeping expansion of the powers of the state over the rights of individuals could even be contemplated by conservatives. The libertarians, conservative defenders of individual liberty, and believers in limited government, have been shouted down. The size and power of the state is growing unchecked, along with restrictions on personal liberty. The Democrats certainly aren't going to stop this growth of government. The Republicans want to expand government power over individuals. The champions of personal liberty have largely disappeared from politics.

Now if I can say all this, a Christian fundamentalist who lives in Albany County, Wyoming, where Matthew Shepard was beaten to death, in part, because he was gay, then surely others can stand up, too. I live in a state which will overwhelmingly vote for George Bush in the upcoming election. Even though Albany County is fairly liberal, it may also vote for Bush. My vote doesn't count for anything, really, so I'm going to try to work on that. But, even if Bush is elected, as bad as that will be for the whole world, it is good to know Bush is only a secular leader, not a spiritual leader. His power comes not from God, but from a hypocritical political machine. As a leader, his fallibility has been demonstrated again and again. He is the best argument against theocracy since the Dark Ages. Another four years of Bush may be just what it takes to kill the notion of a modern American theocratic state once and for all. Nevertheless, I pray to God Almighty that he loses.

[Strip of film rule]
Copyright © 2004 Robert Roten. All rights reserved.
Reproduced with the permission of the copyright holder.
[Strip of film rule]
Back to the Laramie Movie Scope index.
[Rule made of Seventh Seal sillouettes]

Robert Roten can be reached via e-mail at my last name at lariat dot org. [Mailer button: image of letter and envelope]

(If you e-mail me with a question about this or any other movie or review, please mention the name of the movie you are asking the question about, otherwise I may have no way of knowing which film you are referring to)