The Republic of T.

Black. Gay. Father. Vegetarian. Buddhist. Liberal.

Down the Aisle in Des Moines?

OK, I’ll admit I’m shocked. If I’d even tried to guess which state would be the next to allow gays to legally marry, I would have picked California or Maryland, where cases are now pending in the states’ highest courts. I would not have picked Iowa. But apparently, Iowa it is.

Two men sealed the state’s first legal same-sex marriage with a kiss Friday morning, less than 24 hours after a judge threw out Iowa’s ban gay marriage and about two hours before he put the ruling on hold.

It was a narrow window of opportunity.

Thursday afternoon, Polk County Judge Robert Hanson temporarilyvcleared the way for same-sex couples across the state to apply for marriage licenses in Polk County when he ruled that Iowa’s 1998 Defense of Marriage Act, which allowed marriage only between a man and a woman, violated the constitutional rights of due process and equal protection of six gay couples who had sued.

County attorney John Sarcone promised a quick appeal, and he asked Hanson to stay his ruling until the appeal was resolved.

A dozen gay and lesbian couples were waiting at the county recorder’s office when it opened Friday morning.

By 11 a.m., 20 had applied for marriage licenses when Recorder Julie Haggerty announced that she had been instructed to stop accepting the applications. Hanson told The Associated Press about an hour and half later that he had formally stayed his ruling.

I can’t blame those doezen couples. I’d have camped out at the courthouse myself. Even with the possibility that the court could “un-marry” us later, being legally married might come in handy, if our rights and protections as a couple were called into question in the meantime.

But the Iowa situation brings up some interesting questions.

First, there’s the observation made by the Iowa Independent, in light of the Larry Craig affair.

Larry Craig’s sad, self-hateful story is the polar opposite of the committed, lifelong relationships of the six Iowa couples who were plaintiffs in this case. But the Republican Party’s overnight abandonment of Craig illustrates the GOP’s deep hostility to all things gay. The impact on the Republican nominating contest will be a race to condemn the ruling and outdo each other rhetorically.

Of course, there’s the question I’ve asked repeatedly of conservatives on this (not that I expect an answer): When you require people to be closeted, and thus require them to live twisted lives, inside and out, how can you expect otherwise? I don’t expect an answer, of course. But Joe Conason poses another interesting questions to conservatives who are wondering why the Republican party is particularly plagued with closet cases.

Like a friend whose suffering the implosion of yet another sick-from-the-start relationship, it time someone asks the GOP “have you ever asked what is it about you that attracts these closet cases?

As one embarrassing episode follows another, with almost predictable regularity, perhaps it is time for Republicans and conservatives to ask themselves an obvious question: What makes the Republican Party — and the conservative movement more generally — so attractive to closeted homosexual men?

Somewhere in the textbooks of psychosexual pathology there may be a straightforward answer, so to speak. Does the party draw closeted men because they can hide behind Republican homophobia? Or does the party promote homophobia as a political ruse while closeted men run the show? Whatever the answer, the result is routine humiliation and personal destruction. Even worse, the party’s culture of concealment encourages right-wing gay-bashing, such as Tucker Carlson’s grotesque boast that he and another adolescent thug beat up a gay man who “bothered” him in a bathroom years ago.

I’m going to go out on a limb and suggest that maybe it goes back to something reflected in the president himself and the 25% of the country that steadfastly believes he’s doing an excellent job: the steadfast unwillingness to revise one’s world view in light of reliable information that counters it.

In the case of Larry Craig it’s the outright denial that he could be or has ever been gay, no matter how many men he may have hooked up with in any number of restrooms. After all he’s a married man, with kids, right? OK. So he married his wife in 1983, following a 1982 media report about that he’d had sex with, and adopted her three children.

In the case of the GOP, there’s a larger denial going on, and it’s illustrated in the preplexing responses to the scandals surrounding Larry Craig and David Vitter, as Glenn Grenwald points out.

Michelle Malkin yesterday called Craig a “weasel,” accused him of not caring about the “dignity of his office,” and demanded that he resign. Various other right-wing blogs — noting that a GOP governor will appoint his replacement — also are calling for Craig to resign.

So revealingly, Barnett’s blog colleague, Hugh Hewitt, demanded Craig’s immediate resignation while openly acknowledging that he does not believe Sen. Vitter should resign. I wonder what the difference might be? It cannot possibly be that Craig’s liaisons were with men rather than women, because the Right is completely indifferent to such considerations.

But I think there’s more at work here than the usal hypocricy that seems standard GOP operating procedure these days; more than the kind of hypocrisy that excoriates Craig and gives Vitter a pass; it’s the kind of hypocrisy that prefers marriages like Craig’s (or Vitter’s for that matter) to marriage like the couples who queued up outside the courthouse in Des Moines, or my own marriage for that matter.

Vitter, no matter how many prostitutes he may have patronized or what variety of sex acts he may have had with them, is no less legally married to his wife. In fact, if he left his wife tomorrow and had sex with a different prostutute every day until the day he died, so long as they’re married he’d retain as least some of the rights of a legal spouse. Craig, no matter how attracted he may be to other man or how many men he may have had sex with, is no legally less married to his wife. In fact, even if he came out as gay, so long as they stayed married, he would retain all the legal rights of a spouse. So would their wives.

But that the hubby and I, and the couples in Des Moines, actually manage to keep the vows that we made to one another — to actually follow the model of marriage more closely than Craig and Vitter apparently have — is no matter. Craig’s marriage and Vitter’s marriage are morally acceptable and ours are not.

And that’s the first level of denial at play, as Daylight Atheism points out.

Gay people, no less than straight people, have the ability to love and the desire to live together in peace and security with their partners. Denying them the same rights afforded to heterosexual couples – insurance and pension benefits, the right to make medical decisions, hospital visitation rights, inheritance rights, tax benefits, adoption benefits, and more – is unconscionable discrimination. Not only does it cause tremendous suffering to the gay couples who are actually harmed by this unequal treatment, it causes great potential suffering for gay couples who know that all they have could be taken from them in the case of a tragedy or emergency. It also causes suffering for the children of gay couples by denying them a stable and secure family.

By contrast, granting them these rights causes no harm to anyone. No church would be forbidden from voicing its own views on homosexuality; no heterosexual couple would be prevented from getting married and spending their own lives together just because gays can do it too. The only repercussion would be that people opposed to gay marriage would be upset that they did not get their own way, but this is not the kind of harm that is cognizable under universal utilitarianism. The best way to maximize the happiness of everyone is to give all people the freedom to live their own lives as they see fit, so long as they do not infringe on others’ equal right to do the same. Gay people seek the same freedom as everyone else; they do not seek to reach into heterosexuals’ lives to control them, to deny them equal protection or take away any freedom that they already have. The same cannot be said of the religious right.

The supposed negative effects of legalizing gay marriage are unsupported by reason or evidence. The idea that God will punish countries which allow this is a superstitious and irrational fear, given that gay marriage and civil unions have already been legalized in some places for years and those nations have suffered no divine wrath.

It’s the kind of denial that, as Pam pointed out makes it preferable for guys like Craig and Vitter to contiue to fail at living up to a standard of fidelity than it is for the DeMoines couples or the hubby and me to succeed at it. And in Craig’s case, if he really is gay, that means that it’s better for him to live his second best life dishonestly than it is for the rest of us to try and live our best lives with honesty and fidelity.

It’s the kind of logic that says to us and every other same-sex couple that typical right wing response that sounds flip to us, but that they really mean: “If you want the rights and protections of marrige, then you can have them. You just have to marry soeone of the opposite sex.” And it doesn’t matter whether we mean our vows, or even bother to try and uphold them. As long as we’re married to someone with the socially sanctioned set of genitalia. The message is that we should all be more like Larry Craig, or Tim McGreevey, or Ted Haggard.

And that’s because of the second level of denial here, one that Daylight Atheism touchd on above, and that I’ve written about before. You cannot be good and be gay. Period.

It comes down to a basic question: Can you be gay and be a good person? Can you be good person and be gay? Can you be gay and good? Good and gay? From religious conservatives, there seem to be two answers: Maybe. And no.

Except that if you’re gay, as far as some people are concerned, you are basically the same as people who lie, cheat, steal, turn a blind eye to suffering, and actively bring harm to others. And that’s even if you don’t do any of the above and never have. You’re still have the same moral standing as people who do, and a lower moral standing than people who don’t do any of the above and are also heterosexual. Celibacy won’t necessarily get you off the hook either, because even having homosexual desires damns you as far as some people are concerned.

The closest to equality you’ll get is the “we’ve all sinned, and fallen short blahdy, blahdy, blah” response. Congratulations, you’re on equal footing with liars, thieves, murderers, adulterers, rapists, shoplifters, tax cheats, drug dealers, etc. And that’s just from being gay (bonus if you’re a “practicing homosexual,” I guess). You’re just as “intrinsically disordered” as the paranoid schizophrenic serial killer. And you get to enjoy the company of your moral equals even if you’ve never even come close to their accomplishments; even if you’ve spent your entire life avoiding the activities that earned them their spot next to you on the moral food chain.

If you’re heterosexual and you do all of the above, you can stop doing all of the above, and never do it again, and raise your moral standing at least somewhat above that motley crew. You can not, however, be gay and do the same. Unless, that is, you can stop being gay. Goodness, after all, is a choice. And if you can’t be gay and good, then gayness must be a choice.

It’s the same logic that says you can’t be gay and be a good parent, no matter what you do, despite any and all evidence to the contrary. And it makes the same exceptions, too. Because, although, it’s based in the belief that people are inherently bad — and thus what makes us equally is that we’re all equally bad (i.e. “we’ve all fallen short, etc.”) — being heterosexual doesn’t make you inherently bad, so much as what you do. But being gay makes you “intrisically disordered”, no matter what you do.

It’s what I call the Animal Farm style of equality. All of us are “fallen,” but some of us are more “fallen” than others.

By the same token, all of us are married, but some of us are more married than others.

The question remains: Who?

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  1. Oh come on. We’re not all bigoted hicks. 🙂 It’s one time I’m proud to be from Iowa.

  2. the republicans and people like them think that if something is a sin, it should be illegal, and if something is illegal it is a sin. contrapositively, they figure if something is not illegal, or if they can wriggle out of a conviction for something, then it was not a sin, and hence, they did nothing wrong.

  3. I am quite happy at this decision for Maryland. The Deane v. Conaway case is still open, after all this time since oral arguments 8 months ago, and that may hypothetically that the bench is struggling to get the right wording down, or to get a unanimous decision or the like. Some of these judges don’t want to be trend setters; they want to follow in the wake. Some are willing to be trend setters. The more voices out there, the better, even if the order is stayed, even if it has no effect for now.

    I cannot help thinking that the Larry Craig business will help gay marriage. The suppression of same-sex love and sexuality produced the closet and the tea room. Frankly, I find the concept of a “tea room” unbelievably disgusting; I don’t eat or use a cell phone in the stall and cannot conceive of engaging in relations there either. I suspect that the visceral reaction of many on-the-fence judges to an anti-gay senator engaging in airport stall sex solicitation will make them a little more receptive to pro-same sex marriage arguments. Judges are supposed to apply the law, not write it, blah blah blah, but judges have been writing law in the Anglo-American tradition for about 800 years. It’s time for some new wisdom and I think it’s on its way here.