(HOST) The Marriage debate currently working its way through state
legislatures nationwide is both complex and highly emotional. But for
commentator Willem Lange, it all seems to boil down to the fundamental
principle of equality before the law.
(LANGE) Matthew J. Franck
is the Director of the William E. and Carol G. Simon Center on Religion
and the Constitution of the Witherspoon Institute of Princeton, New
Jersey. Imagine what his business card must look like! If you wade
through the scholarly verbiage on the Institute’s website, you will find
that it’s dedicated to re-establishing theocracy in the United States
and stamping out deviant life styles.
In an op-ed piece of a few
months ago, Professor Franck declares himself upset by current cultural
trends that challenge "traditional" marriage and social values, and
deplores that he and his colleagues have been "marginalized" by those
who disagree with them. "Clearly," he writes, "a determined effort is
afoot, in cultural bastions controlled by the left, to anathematize
traditional views of sexual morality, particularly opposition to
same-sex marriage, as the expression of ‘hate’ that cannot be tolerated
in a decent civil society."
My initial reaction to that sentence
was straight from Lewis Carroll’s "The Walrus and the Carpenter": "‘I
weep for you,’ the Walrus said: ‘I deeply sympathize.’" Where the devil
were Professor Franck and his colleagues when Matthew Shepard, a
University of Wyoming student, was marginalized to death in 1998 near
Laramie, Wyoming, by a pair of homophobic thugs? What concerns will they
express for the thousands of gay adolescents who, freed from the
ancient "traditional" restraints on self-expression, are still bullied –
sometimes to suicide – by their peers? Seems to me if you’re concerned
about the survival of the institution of marriage, you might work on
saving it where it’s most threatened; so-called traditional marriages
are disintegrating at a rate of about fifty percent .
of traditional marriage," laments Professor Franck, (I’m quoting here.)
"must be likened to racists, as purveyors of irrational fear and
loathing. Opposition to same-sex marriage must be treated just like
support for now long-gone anti-miscegenation laws." To which I would
add, Right on! But only when those defenders try to enact their private
religious or cultural beliefs into legislation and deny other citizens
the basic right guaranteed them by the Constitution: equality before the
I think what’s happening to Dr. Franck and his colleagues
is, they’re feeling the tremors of a tectonic shift in popular attitudes
and practices. Increasingly, as more tolerant younger people ascend to
power, traditionalists have an uphill pull in the cultural tug of war.
But it’s hard to feel sympathy for them. They’re not being denied any of
the rights tradition has denied to others.
Instead of pushing
hateful laws like California’s Proposition Eight and then deploring the
label of "hateful," they should instead enjoy the greatest feature of
democracy – the right , absent the proof of civic injury, to believe,
worship, cohabit, and consort as they please – and leave the rest of
their fellow citizens alone to do the same.
This is Willem Lange in East Montpelier, and I gotta get back to work.