As long-time readers of this column know, I subscribe to the notion that there are two kinds of socialists: Right-wing (largely Republicans) and Left-Wing (largely Democrats). The difference between the two is simple:
o Left-wing socialists believe that everyone is a little bit stupid, and therefore government is necessary to make decisions that they're too stupid to make correctly.
o Right-wing socialists believe that everyone is a little bit evil, and therefore government is necessary to make decisions that they're too evil to make correctly.
The reality, of course, is this:
There are stupid people and there are evil people in the world, and the consequences of both stupid and evil decisions are often self-correcting. When they're not, the rest of us are more than capable to taking care of things without some all-powerful nanny-state making decisions for us.
Case in point: I was once a huge fan of Michael Medved. He was (and remains) a wonderful movie critic: when I want to know if a movie will be inappropriate for my children, I read Medved's review. The most brilliant explanations of the bizarre dealings of the American entertainment industry is to be found in Medved's book Hollywood Versus America. I say this with a great deal of confidence, because at the time of its publication, I was a professional actor. If you really want to know what motivates those in the industry, read Hollywood Versus America.
The fact that his movie reviews and assessment of the entertainment industry are so brilliant makes his performance as a talk-show host all the more disappointing.
Medved (like Rush Limbaugh) is just another Right-wing socialist. If there is an issue to be debated, Medved falls on the Right-wing socialist side every single time.
One of his recent recent socialist rants involves gay marriage. As a Right-wing socialist, Medved believes that one important aspect of government is to set limits on individual behavior. There are standards to be upheld in the Right-wing socialist world: if individuals are too evil to set and uphold the standards by themselves, then it's only proper that an all-powerful nanny-state do it for them.
Lately, with the various activity involved in gay marriage around the country, Medved has repeatedly argued that it's appropriate for government to support and subsidize heterosexual marriage while excluding a homosexual counterpart.
What the right-wing socialists steadfastly refuse to acknowledge is that government involvement in marriage on any level is what CREATES the issue of gay marriage.
At its heart, marriage is a religious function, not a governmental one. In the Catholic faith in which I was married, it is beyond even a ritual, and is considered one of the seven Holy Sacraments. This is an important distinction, something that as an areligious individual I didn't understand until years of attending Mass with my wife had passed. Catholics place Matrimony on the same level as Baptism, Communion, and Priesthood.
Small wonder that religious people should become incensed at government's attempts to violate what they believe to be a holy function.
Traditionally (and with good reason), marriage has involved a heterosexual couple. This hasn't always been the case: the Bible (and indeed some modern sects of the Church of Latter-day Saints) are rife with polygamy. Non-Christian religions (the ancient Greeks and Romans, for example) have no injunction against homosexual relationships at all.
However, as presently defined by the majority of modern popular religions, marriage occurs between a man and a woman, with the expressed purpose of procreation. In modern times, this has generally been a good thing, and those concerned with the rash of broken families in the last half century are right to worry about its impact on children. The numbers are in, and like John Lott's book More Guns, Less Crime, they are indisputable: in a majority of cases, children do better with an intact family consisting of a mother and a father.
If Medved and the other right-wing socialists wish to bring an immediate end to the problem of families disintegrating and homosexual life-partnership being equated with heterosexual marriage, as well as rampant divorce, one simple thing needs to occur:
Government needs to get out of religion.
To support this idea, look for a moment at what drives the issue of "gay marriage." It is in part a desire on the part of homosexuals (a repressed minority if there ever was one) to be on an equal footing with heterosexuals. More than that, however, the modern drive has to do with money. Government has now insinuated itself into marriage so deeply that there are all manner of distinct advantages available to married heterosexual couples that do not exist for homosexuals.
This naturally has the effect of producing two attitudes among homosexuals:
1. They realize that unless a government-sponsored marriage is available to them, they will be forever denied the advantages accorded heterosexuals.
2. It proves to them that they remain a minority against whom it is socially acceptable to discriminate.
Right-wing socialists suggest that this is an appropriate situation: marriage is for heterosexuals, and government should be allowed to protect that institution.
What the Right-wingers consistently fail to accept is that it is their attempt to protect marriage that is destroying it.
Consider the situation were there no government to offer any sort of marriage license. If you wish to get married, you do not need a trip to your local government office; you need only find a church of the appropriate religion and a priest/rabbi/monk/whatever willing to marry you.
Imagine that two gay men wish to marry in such a world. Precisely where will they find such an individual?
The overwhelming majority of modern religions -- certainly the leading Christian, Jewish, and Muslim faiths of the Western world -- have strong philosophical injunctions against homosexuality. It's very rare (though not impossible) to find a sect that will perform a religious marriage.
How, then, will homosexuals marry?
They won't, at least not very often. Certainly some unusual sect will arise to service them -- contrary to popular belief, religion is in most respects market-driven: if there is enough demand for homosexual marriage, sects will arise that cater to them. However, these will be fairly rare.
The Michael Medveds, Rush Limbaughs and other Right-wing socialists need to understand is that they are CREATING the very problem they seek to solve. The moment government stops interfering with what is a religious function, this issue will disappear entirely.
There's no question that there will be homosexual life partners. There's no question that they'll institute practices among themselves designed to protect themselves legally, in much the same fashion as government-sponsored marriage offers some legal protections -- but then, in absence of government-sponsored marriage, so will heterosexual life-partners, even those who were married in a religious ceremony.
But the problem the Right-wing socialists wish to solve -- government making heterosexual and homosexual marriage equal sociologically -- disappears.
The Right-wing socialists are right: marriage is something special. It's a religious ceremony and even a sacrament, depending on your faith. It is entirely wrong for government to equate a state-sponsored legal union with a religious ceremony.
As long as government offers "civil marriages" -- e.g. as long as a judge may perform weddings or the local county courthouse can issue marriage licenses -- the government will continue to equate homosexual and heterosexual marriage.
The moment the Right-wingers realize exactly what they are -- socialists -- and cease meddling in religious affairs is the moment this problem will disappear.
William Stone, III is a South Dakota-based computer nerd (RHCE, CCNP), security consultant (CISSP), and Executive Director of the Zero Aggression Institute . He seeks the Libertarian Party's nomination in 2004 for United States Senate.