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Copyright © 2003 Express Publishing Inc.
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For the week of December 3 - 9, 2003

Opinion Columns

growth ‘industry’

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 hour.

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 are legalized.

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 states.

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."



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