The debate is in preparation for what is likely to be a showdown in 2006 over a state constitutional amendment banning all but heterosexual marriages. From Tom Scharbach at PurpleScarf blog:
In November 2006, Wisconsin may be at ground zero in the battle for civil rights for gays and lesbians, when a proposed state constitutional amendment banning gay marriage, civil unions and domestic partnerships may be on the ballot.
A large voter turnout is expected in that election, a general election in which Governor Jim Doyle, Attorney General Peg Lautenschlager, and Senator Herb Kohl will be up for re-election, as well as all state Assembly representatives and half the state Senate. Political observers say Gard and other Republicans are attempting to leverage the amendment fight in a bid to help defeat Democratic candidates in 2006.
Wisconsin has tended to lean more socially conservative in recent years, which leaves the 2006 election as a big concern for those, like myself, who support equal rights for homosexuals. The good news is that when examples like Massachusettes are considered, it appears that the right of gays to marry is gaining more acceptance with the everday people of the country. Marriage has been legal there for over a year and Boston has yet to be smote by a pillar of fire. However, organizations like Focus on the Family, whose "primary reason for existence is to spread the Gospel of Jesus Christ", have made discrimination against homosexuals one of the core pillars of their political platform.
Let's look at some of Mr. Stanton's less-than-compelling reasons for wanting to deny equal rights to his fellow Americans.
Marriage in the United States has traditionally always been between one man and one woman.
True, but misleading. Yes, the civic institution of marriage has been between one man and one woman in the United States. But the implication of the above statement is that, because marriage has an aspect of "tradition", it should not be changed. The true history of marriage in the United States has been one of frequent revision. The right of women to end a marriage has been added, as has the right to marry those of other races. Women are no longer considered the legal property of men and married couples have gained the right to use birth control. A plethora of legal rights and protections have been enacted concurrent to the understanding of a basic right to privacy within a marriage. Clearly, whatever marriage may be in the United States today, it has changed significantly when compared to the same institution of 20, 50 or 100 years ago.
Gay marriage creates a motherless or fatherless environment which is detrimental to a child.
Patently false. As I've written about in a previous post there is not one shred of evidence that having homosexuals for parents has any ill effects on the development of children. This is a bald-faced lie; ironic, given the contents of the Ten Commandments with which one would expect an executive of Focus on the Family to be familiar. As any parent knows, there is an entire spectrum of qualities that make one a mother or father. What Stanton argues here is nothing but pointless gender stereotyping.
Homosexuals already have the same rights to marry as heterosexuals. They just choose not to exercise them.
I have to confess that this was a new argument I hadn't heard before. It's basically predicated on the notion that living a homosexual lifestyle is a choice, regardless of sexual orientation. A gay man has the right to marry a woman the same as a heterosexual man, but the gay man chooses not to because of his lifestyle. This seems to me a particularly cruel and unjust expression of bigotry; reminiscent of the treatment of blacks in the South during the Jim Crow era. A right constrained by a loss of liberty is no right at all! Perhaps we should change marriage so that everyone must have a Druidic wedding ceremony by law. Would Mr. Stanton be offended at being forced to engage in a pagan ritual in order to marry? By his own reasoning, he shouldn't be, as he still has the right to marry as long as he sets aside his Christian lifestyle.
Sadly, I suspect that the religious conservatives will likely win this battle, though I also expect a vigorous series of court battles to follow. This level of cultural tyranny will not sit well with liberal Madison. It's my sincere hope that one day, so-called Christian organizations like Focus on the Family will actually read and follow some of the teachings of the man whose name they so casually toss about.