Mike Lawrence: The politics of absurdity
Goldfish-marrying makes mockery of serious issue
In 1829, Scotland-born activist Fanny Wright pointed out the hypocrisy of American women not being able to vote.
“Your political institutions have taken equality for their basis; your declaration of rights, upon which your institutions rest, sets forth this principle as vital and inviolate,” Wright wrote after a visit to the still young United States, in her “Course of Popular Lectures.” “Equality is the soul of liberty; there is, in fact, no liberty without it.”
Few of us would argue with those words. Wright was advocating for women’s suffrage, an effort that became successful in 1920 with the passage of the 19th Amendment. More than 80 years later, and nearly 180 years after Wright’s publication, the same principle of equality is again being tested – this time in the debate about same-sex marriage.
On Nov. 7, Colorado voters will decide on two ballot questions related to the issue. Amendment 43 would define marriage in the state Constitution as a union between one man and one woman. Referendum I would allow same-sex couples to apply for a state-recognized domestic partnership and receive all the “benefits, protections and responsibilities” of spouses – such as shared health care plans for state employees, worker’s compensation and retirement benefits, hospital visitation rights, access to terminal care documents and the ability to make emergency medical decisions.
The two ballot issues may seem to conflict, but that is not the case. The language of Referendum I clarifies that “a domestic partnership is not a marriage,” and defines marriage as “the legally recognized union of one man and one woman.” The referendum is about providing equal rights for citizens, not about changing traditional marriage.
Yet, as in much of the country, a marriage tempest is brewing in Colorado – not in a teapot, but in a fishbowl.
Last week at Mesa State College in Grand Junction, eight people were “married” to goldfish in mock ceremonies intended to make a statement about same-sex marriage.
What that statement means is not exactly clear. After members of the college’s Young Republicans club sponsored the event, club president Allen Haggerty told the Grand Junction Daily Sentinel that “lines need to be drawn” in order to preserve traditional marriages of one man and one woman.
But doesn’t it seem a bit absurd to link bestiality – or whatever you would call a union with a fish – to two men or two women spending their lives together?
It’s not the first time Colorado Republicans have made the leap from gays to goldfish. Janet Rowland, newly-appointed running mate for Republican gubernatorial candidate Bob Beauprez and a Mesa County commissioner, recently came under fire for statements she made in March during an interview aired on Rocky Mountain PBS.
“Homosexuality is an alternative lifestyle. That doesn’t make it a marriage,” Rowland said. “Some people have group sex. Should we allow two men and three women to marry? Should we allow polygamy with one man and five wives? For some, bestiality is an alternative lifestyle. Do we allow a man to marry a sheep? At some point, we have to draw a line.”
Rowland and Beauprez have since apologized for the statement, which makes a blatant misconception by using one word: lifestyle.
Staying in shape is a lifestyle. Driving a Harley is a lifestyle. Not wearing white after Labor Day – get those pants out, it’s coming up fast – is a lifestyle.
Homosexuality is not a lifestyle.
According to every homosexual friend, family member and acquaintance I have, homosexuality is not something you choose, but something that you are.
Like being black. Like being white. Like being Hispanic. Like being Asian.
Like being a man.
Like being a woman, wanting to vote.
Like being a citizen of this state and of this country, asking for equal rights.
I have no problem with drawing lines about marriage. But I draw mine at two consenting adults. Or, if you like, at two consenting adult human beings.
In 1893, thanks to citizens like Fanny Wright and Susan B. Anthony, Colorado became the first state, by vote, to allow women the right to vote.
In November, the state can help lead the charge for another long overdue civil rights movement.
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