Sunday, February 11, 2007

Good in Theory...Dangerous in Practice

In Washington State, the state's supreme court in Andersen v. King County (July 2006) found a “legitimate state interest” allowing the Legislature to limit marriage to those couples able to have and raise children together. Because of this “legitimate state interest,” the court found that it is permissible to bar same-sex couples from legal marriage. In response, the Washington Defense of Marriage Alliance is sponsoring a ballot initiative to hold the Legislature to its word by making procreation required in marriage, prohibit divorce/separation when there are children, and make the act of having a child together the legal equivalent of a marriage ceremony.

Here is the text of Initiative 957

If passed by Washington voters, the Defense of Marriage Initiative would:

* add the phrase, “who are capable of having children with one another” to the legal definition of marriage;
* require that couples married in Washington file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage automatically annulled;
* require that couples married out of state file proof of procreation within three years of the date of marriage or have their marriage classed as “unrecognized;”
* establish a process for filing proof of procreation; and
* make it a criminal act for people in an unrecognized marriage to receive marriage benefits.

In explanation, The Alliance offers the following:
Absurd? Very. But there is a rational basis for this absurdity. By floating the initiatives, we hope to prompt discussion about the many misguided assumptions which make up the Andersen ruling. By getting the initiatives passed, we hope the Supreme Court will strike them down as unconstitutional and thus weaken Andersen itself. And at the very least, it should be good fun to see the social conservatives who have long screamed that marriage exists for the sole purpose of procreation be forced to choke on their own rhetoric.

I get where they are coming from and I sympathize (both with the cause and the slightly sarcastic tone to the campaign) but I am not sure that this is effective or just alienating. I definitely wouldn't expect this tactic to sway diehard homophobes (and I doubt they do either). Maybe it will prompt social conservatives and moderates who are on the fence about gay marriage to think about what these DOMA laws are really saying and how ridiculous the arguments are, but I think it is just as likely if not more likely that the conservative groups will be able to spin this as just more evidence of the gays attacking marriage and destroying our way of life.

I think I don't have enough faith in the level of public discourse in our society for us to have this conversation in a way that this initiative would be effective, maybe I am cynical but it seems all Fox News and Bumperstickers and i don't think irony plays well there. I guess (can you tell I am thinking this through as I write) this initiative is in the vein of The Colbert Report but again I think that show is funny for liberals but doesn't do much to shift conservative sentiment.

What do you think? Is the a good idea, bad idea, irrelevant?

-A. Monkey