Revolution #51, June 18, 2006
The Vicious Agenda Behind the Attacks on Gay Marriage
The film V for Vendetta depicts a fascist state with eerie similarities to the direction Bush’s America is headed. Central to the cohering logic of that regime is institutionalized ignorance and fierce discrimination against gays and lesbians, including manufactured hysteria around an AIDS-like disease that is blamed on a permissive society. This gripping depiction of fascism is something to keep in mind as we look at Bush’s anti-gay marriage amendment and the frightening terms of the so-called “debate” that’s gone on in congress this week—a debate where prejudice, persecution, and cruel vengeance against gay people is taken as a given.
In two major speeches in the past two weeks, George Bush called for a constitutional amendment that “defines marriage in the United States as the union of a man and woman.” With fundamentalist flair, he declared that marriage is “the most enduring and important human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith” and is now in “danger” due to “activist judges” that are “making an aggressive attempt to redefine marriage.”
Bush’s call for the amendment unleashed a new round of lies and wild assertions from Christian fascists. On Jon Stewart’s Daily Show, “conservative” Christian William Bennett claimed that legalizing gay marriage would lead to polygamy. Bennett tries to come off as reasoned and unassuming during such mainstream media appearances, but in actuality he is known for statements such as saying that if “you wanted to reduce crime … if that were your sole purpose, you could abort every Black baby in this country, and your crime rate would go down.” And Bennett is a cultural force promoting biblical values in society. The Bible—on which he models the set of virtues he promotes, explicitly calls for the execution of homosexuals.
In an October 6, 2005 broadcast, preacher James Dobson, a Christian fascist who wants to see a theocracy, a “Christian nation”—claimed that if gay marriage was legal, what would stop “marriage between daddies and little girls? Or marriage between a man and his donkey? Anything allegedly linked to civil rights will be doable.”
Enshrining Discrimination Against Gays in the Constitution
On June 7, the Senate voted 49-48 in favor of the amendment to ban gay marriage. Almost half of the members of the US Senate were ready to enshrine discrimination against a whole section of people into the US Constitution. A minimum of 60 votes are needed to move beyond the point of debate and vote on the actual amendment (67 votes are needed to actually initiate the process of changing the Constitution). So the amendment did not officially move forward in this round. But Bush and Republican senators behind the bill were anything but discouraged. This was the first time that more senators voted for an anti-gay marriage amendment than voted against it.
Senator Wayne Allard, the main proponent of the measure, declared this was a “significant milestone in the fight to protect marriage.” Bush and others expressed similar sentiments that this was one step in a process that could take several years. In short, the forces who want to persecute gay people are on the offensive, and they aren’t going to go away.
The Constitution of the United States is not a framework for a society free of exploitation and oppression—to say the least! The original Constitution denied women the right to vote and enshrined slavery. But the anti-gay marriage amendment will be the first time, since the end of slavery and the granting of the right to vote to women, that the Constitution formally and officially singled out a class of people to be discriminated against— who would not have the same legal rights as everyone else. And the amendment would make it impossible for any state to pass laws allowing gay marriage.
Those senators who did oppose the bill overwhelmingly did so not on the basis of opposing this kind of narrow discrimination and prejudice, but because they said this was an election-year distraction. But this amendment is not an isolated tactical move to “rally” the Christian conservative base for this year’s elections; it is part of a larger agenda. It is a very serious attack that grossly and unfairly singles out gay people placing legal restrictions on a whole group of people that will further stigmatize them and feed the demonization of gay and lesbian people that is promoted by these Christian fascist forces. When you add in their literal interpretation of the Bible—which calls for killing gay people—this has genocidal implications. And this is all grist to the Dominionists—people who believe that they should govern society according to their literal interpretation of the Bible. The Dominionists would establish the family as the basic governing unit of society—a family that would be mandated by god to unchallenged rule by the father. This is a lunatic doctrine which demands the total remaking of society to conform with the laws of the Old Testament of the Bible. And forces who believe this are deeply embedded in and connected to the Bush administration. (See Revolution #33, February 5, 2006: “Dominionism: Be Afraid. Be Very Afraid. The future we must stop!”)
The Larger Agenda: Marriage and Women
The forces behind the anti-gay marriage amendment are the people who brought us the lunacy around Terri Schiavo, and made the same accusations that “activist judges” they were targeting were interfering with God’s work by not stopping the husband of a woman whose capacity to think had been permanently destroyed, in exercising his right to end life-support measures for her. And they are the same forces who have 16-year-old women fooled into standing on the front lines against abortion, promoting a world where they will be forced to bear children against their will, or resort to the danger of a back-alley abortion. And now here’s Bush along with leading figures among the Republicans and the Christian right congratulating themselves on another step forward in rewriting their agenda right into the Constitution!
While Bush and the Christian fascists rail against “activist courts,” they are filling the courts with judges on a theocratic mission, articulated by Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia who said, “Government…derives its moral authority from God.” Bush vets his court nominees not with legal experts but with Christian theocrats, and is packing the courts with judges who oppose Roe v. Wade and legal abortion.
There are many parallels between the attack on gay marriage and the way that the anti-abortion forces were built up over a number of years, to the point that they have now made very dangerous headway in claiming the moral high ground on an issue where they were much more isolated not that long ago. And there is a parallel to the way that the Democrats have “opposed” attacks on abortion by consistently adopting the terms of the Christian fascists, while making arguments that abortion should be “legal but rare.” In the same way, even while this anti-gay amendment failed, Bush and those he represents are defining the terms—that this is about caring for children, preventing polygamy and not what it really is—a vicious initiative to impose a biblical-literalist morality that would be hellish for people overall.
In his speech, Bush spoke in tempered tones about having a “discussion with civility and decency.” Meanwhile, the shock troops of this movement continue to pander to and mobilize people with rhetoric like “The Hebrew words for male and female are actually the words for the male and female genital parts… The male is the piercer, the female is the pierced. That is the way God designed it… Look what has happened in the decades since the sexual revolution and acceptance of the gay lifestyle as normal. Viruses have mutated. STDs have spread. It shows that when we try to change the natural course of things, what comes out of that is not joy or gayness.” [An anti-gay minister, quoted in “What's Their Real Problem with Gay Marriage (It's the Gay Part), NY Times Magazine, June 23, 2005.]
The above quote, which begins conflating and then finally equating gay people with viruses and germs, is remarkably similar to Nazi rhetoric about Jews. In Bush’s ideal society, gays and lesbians would not just be driven underground but persecuted and executed—see the Bible on that one.
Here again, we can see a parallel between the assault on abortion that has taken the form of high-sounding speeches about saving babies, combined with rhetoric that unleashes women-hating psychopaths to assassinate doctors and assault clinics. And although this might not be happening in the form of organized vigilante attacks on gays yet, it’s a real danger. Open violence and persecution against gays and lesbians is a real and common thing. For example, Matthew Shepard was brutally murdered for being gay, and then anti-gay activists picketed at his funeral with signs saying he will burn in hell.
What Are They Defending?
The Christian fascists say that gay marriage attacks the institution of the family. Sometimes reasonable, humane people scratch their heads and ask these anti-gay forces, “But how does the marriage of two gay people hurt anyone who is striving to forge intimate relations on decent egalitarian grounds?” And, in fact, there is no way at all that two gay people marrying hurts that. But that is not the issue. The Christian fascists have a whole program on marriage, including covenant marriage (a “contract with god,” that among other things places severe restrictions on divorce) and restricting and eventually eliminating divorce.
Stepping back, the current battle over marriage laws has to be seen in the context of stresses on U.S. imperialism today, and how the rulers see forging social cohesion in these times.
To return to Bush’s speech, he declares that “Marriage is the most enduring and important human institution, honored and encouraged in all cultures and by every religious faith. Ages of experience have taught us that the commitment of a husband and a wife to love and to serve one another promotes the welfare of children and the stability of society. Marriage cannot be cut off from its cultural, religious, and natural roots without weakening this good influence on society. Government, by recognizing and protecting marriage, serves the interests of all.”
Well, it is true that the social relations such as marriage and family are bound up in and rooted in the society they come from, but they are not “natural” as in some innate human nature. But in reality, the traditional family that Bush wants to restore included, until recently, marital rape as the legal right of the husband; de facto allowance of wife-beating and other forms of abuse; total economic and emotional dependence of women; and either no divorce, or divorce laws that are weighted against the woman. Why should this be preserved?
Todaythe “cultural, religious, and natural roots” of marriage are being shaken and even ripped apart to some extent, by changes in the way society is organized on both a national and international scale. There are dynamics in the world that are increasingly undercutting the basis for the traditional family. In the past 50 years, the role of women in society has changed due to sweeping changes in the world, including very complex economic factors and corresponding shifts in cultural norms. This can be seen in women increasingly working outside the home, or families living apart due to immigration. And in relationship to this, there has been a rise of movements for women’s equality, and even emancipation. Especially where these movements have arisen in conjunction with revolutionary communist movements, the chains of the traditional family that are stifling and oppressing women throughout society have begun to be broken down and struggled against.
The Christian fascists, and other elements of the ruling class, see the need to further reinforce and remake cultural norms regarding marriage, on the basis of this repressive religious morality that is coming into play and gaining momentum right now, not because anyone is concerned about future generations of children, but to seek to respond to forces pulling on the threads that hold this society together by imposing a Biblical-literalist “glue” to hold together their exploitative system.
There is no rational logic in statements that same-sex marriage leads to polygamy or that gays and lesbians are a societal disease. But, from the point of view of a variety of forces in the ruling class and throughout this society, including Bush, Dobson, Bennett, and the fascistic and Dominionist forces—from their more fundamental concerns and interests—same-sex marriage does hurt what they are trying to do and does actually threaten the repressive and oppressive conception of marriage and family which Bush and these forces are dead set on cementing into constitutional law. Not just because they are prejudiced against gay people, or see same-sex relationships as some kind of sexual deviance or sickness, which some of them do, but because a Christian fascist morality has an important role to play in cohering a society that is in their strategic interests.
There are two discrete things going on here: one, the forceful reassertion of patriarchy and two, the actual demonization of gay people and attempts to drive them underground and actually get to a society where they are forbidden and executed. As part of promoting this demonization broadly, there’s a continuing frenzy by the likes of Falwell, Robertson, and others to make outlandish assertions like blaming gay men and lesbians, along with abortion providers and the ACLU, for 9/11, claiming that it was punishment for “mocking god.” And of course this would be ridiculous if it weren’t for the fact that they have millions of stupefied followers and, again, backing from on high (and we mean high levels of the ruling class, not backing from an imaginary being!).
Cast Away Illusions, Get Ready to Struggle—for Something Much Better Than This
If you think the blocking of this amendment is a victory for gay rights, wake up. Forty-five states have already passed laws or amended their constitution to do away with same-sex marriage. Eighteen states have done this with constitutional amendments that define marriage as between a man and a woman, 27 with laws restricting marriage to one man and one woman, according to cnn.com. This November, initiatives banning same-sex marriages are expected to be on the ballot in Idaho, South Carolina, South Dakota, Tennessee, Virginia and Wisconsin, according Associated Press.
There is a grassroots coalition with 61 organizations including Focus on the Family and others, under the umbrella of “The Arlington Group,” which is mobilizing a movement of millions who are consciously fighting for this or have to one degree or another been taken in and fooled by a Christian fascist agenda. That agenda claims to have concern for society, for future generations of children, and even compassion and love for gay people. But this is a dangerous force in society that is influencing people in a negative direction that’s not fundamentally in their interests. The reality of a world where this program would be implemented, along with the culture it would promote, would be a horror for gay people, women, and future generations.
The polarization in society around the gay marriage battle right now is not good. It’s not good for gay people, its not good for anyone that doesn’t want to see a fascist breed of Christianity imposed on society, and it’s not good for the masses of people whose interests lie in a radically different morality. Who wants to live in a world where people are hounded, discriminated against, degraded, and killed for their sexual orientation? There is a need for those who oppose the discrimination of gay people and the ripping away of women’s rights, to recognize the implications of this and actively resist. There’s a diverse array of people, including progressive religious forces, that don’t want to see the reality of “one man one woman,” and all that means, put into place. There are many, many people who want to see a society where lesbians and gays are openly accepted and where women are not treated as breeders, where people have relationships consciously, based on mutual love and respect.
A communist view sees not only this, but the need and the possibility to have a radically different morality. To create a future that’s not based on patriarchy and property relations institutionalizing the oppression of women. A future where people can freely flourish with each other, where intimate relationships are no longer in the framework of economic compulsion, where child rearing is no longer an isolated, atomized thing but a joyous social undertaking. In this context, same-sex relationships would be accepted, as well as studied along with human sexuality and intimate relationships in their variety of forms and history, to be further understood on a scientific basis, to contribute to further revolutionizing all of society. In transforming all of society and getting to a communist world, the family itself will be transcended. People will still have intimate and loving relations, but these will no longer be confined into the constricting framework of the family, or under constant pressure to end up as some kind of commodity exchange.
Right now there are ultimately two contending world views with different approaches to marriage, women, sexuality and relationships. One sees gay people as sick sinners, and gay marriage as a disease in society. The other accepts intimate relationships, gay or straight, based on love, respect, and equality. People who do not want to live in a society where gay people are persecuted need to recognize and confront the seriousness of the Christian fascist program.
If you are content to brush this off as Bush making desperate attempts to appeal to his conservative base and nod your head and laugh along with Jon Stewart, you need to seriously reconsider the reality of where things are headed. And if you are someone who was outraged by how Bush left Black people to die in New Orleans, then you need to open your eyes and stop getting played by the likes of Bush, or William Bennett, who openly called for the aborting of Black babies to end crime.
Increasingly, as gay and lesbian people step out with pride, and as others throughout society support their right to do so, movements have emerged demanding basic rights for gay people, including rights that are usually afforded to legally recognized families. This is important right now, and its important that this is supported from many sections in society. But to wage this battle, people have to confront and take on the whole agenda concentrated in the Bush regime right now. If we are ever going to get to a radically different future, there must be a massive movement now to Drive Out the Bush Regime that incorporates and brings together the widest array of people. We are up against a really serious danger, aspects of which are revealed by the attack on gay marriage.
At the same time that we struggle for equality for same-sex couples, and as we take on the larger battle that this is part of, people can come to see that the chains on humanity that are stifling all of human relations cannot be lifted without a revolution.
We can only begin to imagine the form that intimate relations and raising children will take in a whole new society, without the exploitative, oppressive relations of capitalism acting as a fetter on all of humanity. But we can and should begin to imagine and debate about this in the course of putting a stop to the trajectory in the U.S. now. This is part of understanding and grappling with the need and possibility of revolution, and struggling to bring a radically different world into being.
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