Commentary by Pat Murphy
America’s fastest growing industry is not
listed on any of the stock exchanges and yet it’s with us everywhere, every
It’s the "fear industry," a collection of
niche qualms devoted to keeping Americans permanently on edge.
Fear of terrorism tops the list with daily
reminders at airport check-ins, presidential speeches and casualty reports from
Iraq. Less lethal fears involve gross obesity, junk food cholesterol, aging
bodies, job layoffs, kids on drugs, urban snipers, eroding public services,
federal deficits and health problems promoted on TV by pharmaceutical houses
ranging from stomach acid to depression.
Now a new one is designed to jangle
nerves—fear that the "sanctity of marriage" is in peril if same sex marriages
Politicians with an eye on the evangelical
vote want to amend the U.S. Constitution to ban gay marriages. Unabashed by
their moralizing hypocrisy, bishops of Boston’s Catholic Diocese also have
weighed in with their scolding—even as they fork over tens of millions of
dollars to victims of predator priests protected by the church for decades.
The snag in this panic is that gays hardly
are problems for marriage. Heterosexuals are doing just fine abusing it.
Right now, 43 percent of first marriages
end in divorce. An estimated 4.9 million heterosexuals live together without
marriage vows. At last count, 33 percent of births involve unwed women. Reported
domestic violence is astronomical.
(Ironically, the divorce of President
Bush’s younger brother, Neil, after 23 years of marriage is not untypical of
wedlock’s troubles: he admitted to a rash of adulterous sex romps.)
Doomsayers are indulging in outlandish
overkill. The total U.S. population of gays and lesbians—5,872,657 in the 2000
census—is less than 3 percent of the total population of 281,421,906.
Moreover, not all gays and lesbians want
to marry, just as not all heterosexuals marry.
Cries of disaster always accompany social
change. Intermarriage of Jews and Christians once provoked heated debate. So,
too, did the right of women to vote. Racial desegregation and integration caused
riots and violence. Interracial marriages were condemned, even outlawed by some
Catholics are torn in debates over the
right of priests to marry as well as inducting women as priests. Some historians
believe both are inevitable.
Gay marriages are being endorsed in
unexpected quarters. Not the least such approval comes from David Brooks, highly
regarded senior editor of the ultra-conservative intellectual Weekly Standard
political magazine, who’s a former Wall Street Journal editor and writes a
column for The New York Times.
"The conservative course is not to banish
gay people from making such commitments," Brooks wrote in the Times ("The Power
of Marriage," Nov. 22). "It is to expect that they make such commitments. We
shouldn’t just allow gay marriage. We should insist on gay marriage. We should
regard it as scandalous that two people could claim to love each other and not
want to sanctify their love with marriage and fidelity."