If voters should be allowed to decide if gays can marry, then maybe some other nuptial scenarios should be on the ballot as well.
Since California’s infamous Proposition 8 was overturned on constitutional grounds on August 4th, the usual pro and con reactions have filled the letters to the editor pages on the salient websites and in those quaint things called newspapers. People hailed the decision as a vital step in strengthening notions of civil rights and true equality. People bemoaned the downfall of America because now we’re just inches away from people being allowed to marry their pets. Of course, given that a dog’s (and indeed a cat’s) capacity for fidelity often puts most humans to shame, maybe the anti-bestiality lobby is just afraid of some mutt making them all look bad. Anyway, one of the biggest beefs about the decision is that a judge has denied “the will of the voters,” since a majority of California voters supported Obama and Prop. 8 almost two years ago (don’t get me started about hypocrisy). One week after the decision, yet another individual who believes Prop. 8 should stand because voters think this form of discrimination is groovy wrote a letter to the Los Angeles Times sharing his two cents with the world. He concluded that given what’s happened with 8, we shouldn’t be surprised that there’s always low voter turnout. Why bother voting if some pointy-headed (liberal) elites are going to say damn the torpedoes and impose their will? I’m paraphrasing. Nevertheless, aside from some curious omissions in his argument, such as that little matter of Bush v. Gore wherein the Supreme Court ignored the will of the majority of U.S. voters and imposed Bush on us all, it occurred to me that maybe this idiot was an inadvertent savant. Maybe we should actually expand the scope of marital circumstances upon which people can vote. After all, if Prop. 8 is all about upholding the sanctity of marriage and protecting the children (rather than, you know, irrational homophobia), then aren’t there some other choice—and legal—nuptial situations that similarly should be put to the electoral test?
Take, for instance, people who have spouses that died under mysterious circumstances. They fell down the stairs. They didn’t make it out before the house burned down. They drowned in the bathtub. They walked into that ball peen hammer. Right. A couple years back, the august Today Show had wall-to-wall (to-wall) stories about an Illinois ex-policeman named Drew Peterson. It seems that rather than get divorced from his third and fourth wives (apparently two divorces were enough—more on that in a moment), he preferred to sever those matrimonial ties in a more permanent manner. And he was engaged to the potential fifth Mrs. Peterson when the fourth was reported missing. And his second wife had accused him of spousal abuse. That is one heck of a record for besmirching holy matrimony. How could any concerned citizen in his/her right mind want this person to get re-married? If the voters had been allowed to decide whether such individuals should be permitted to wed, then at least one of Drew Peterson’s four wives would probably still be alive today. So here’s my suggestion for a ballot measure. Any widow or widower whose spouse didn’t die of natural causes or a clearly catastrophic event: no more marriage for them. Obviously these people are menaces, regardless of whether or not they’ve ever been proven guilty of homicide. Due process? Feh. We’ll call this one Measure M…for murder.
Then there are the pervs and purveyors of smut. I don’t mean the polygamist FLDS nut jobs living on the compounds and inspiring fabulous HBO soap operas. I’m talking about people who can legally marry even though their entire lives seem anathema to the institution. Like Hugh Hefner. Should this guy really be allowed to take a spouse? Or Larry Flynt? Or Bob Guccione? Or, for that matter, Heidi Fleiss? (I am well aware that women can be just as bad as men.) The notion that one should have a single life-long, well-loved (and well-loved) person of the opposite sex in one’s life does not seem to compute in their worlds. Lots of bodacious, very willing, and very young sexual partners, on the other hand—that’s where it’s at. With plenty of girl-on-girl action to boot. Also falling into this category would be such real life Humbert Humberts as Woody Allen and Roman Polanski. Their amply documented sexual habits are rather unsavory and they’ve each done films where a teen girl is the primary object of desire (Manhattan and Tess for those of you not alive in the 1970s). If they could, they’d probably marry teenagers who are under eighteen. They can’t, so they do the next best thing: marry very young women who may as well be teenagers because they’ll always look substantially younger than their increasingly aged husbands. Come on, now. Who cares if all of their work is protected by free speech or the heart wants what it wants. Permitting these people to marry just isn’t wholesome. This all will be covered in Prop. 69 (naturally).
Finally we arrive at the matter of divorce. Full disclosure: I have one divorce under my belt, which puts me solidly in the not-minority of the marriage population. My stock response to gay marriage is that they are just as entitled as I am to making a royal hash of it. Even the writers of the Defense of Marriage Act in Congress knew they’d be screwing the pooch if they tried to outlaw divorce (probably because they themselves, or at least their closest allies, have partaken). Everybody, in short, is doing it, so divorce stays. Hey, everyone makes mistakes. We’re all perfectionists and strivers, right? Isn’t part of the great American mythos all about reinventing oneself and becoming a Jay Gatsby rather than remaining a mere Gatz? So all consenting adults, regardless of gender, sexual orientation, race, religion, creed, music taste, etc. are allowed one do-over. Divorce sucks so much that doing it once is incentive enough not to botch it up again. Also, one bad spouse should give you a pretty solid idea of what you don’t want in a partner. It’s a learning experience so you can do it right the second time.
If you start making divorce a habit, however, then we have a problem. People who get married three, four, five, six, seven, or even eight times—this is not kosher. The Larry Kings and Elizabeth Taylors of the world are not honoring the sacredness of wedded bonds by making and breaking them ad nauseum. That’s just a really pricey form of dating and should not be given tax breaks and insurance privileges. Even less-frequently married multiple marriers like Newt Gingrich and Rush Limbaugh are poking a big stick in the eye of the institution. The fact that they then open their big yaps to proclaim, “Do as I say, not as I do,” just seals the deal. And let us not forget the fact that divorce is often hard on the children. If you do it a bunch of times, how on earth are the little darlings ever going to keep track of who’s mommy and who’s daddy and who’s uncle and aunt so-and-so and who’s a step- or ex-step-parent and who’s just the nanny? It’s a mess, I tell you, a mess. One divorce, fine. Two divorces: that’s just too many sets of ex-parents to invite to graduation parties. If you can’t make it work twice, then clearly you are not capable of properly sanctifying marriage at all. Let’s call this one Proposition 2, as in two strikes and yer out (with the exception of older men who jettison their perfectly fine, similarly-aged first wife for some young hottie. Fuck ‘em. They don’t get a do-over because they’re dishonoring the institution of matrimony when all they really need to do is buy a red Porsche. This is not setting a good example for their offspring).
But wait, you say. Doesn’t Prop. 2 then get in the way of our Jefferson-given right to life, liberty, and (most crucially for the older rich dude with the Porsche) the pursuit of happiness? And doesn’t Prop. 69 trample all over the right to privacy as well as the First Amendment? And Measure M—isn’t there a long established precedent of innocent until proven guilty? Damn. I guess that means some Republican-appointed “activist” judge will ignore the will of the voters and strike those down as well for being unconstitutional. Maybe we should just vote to abolish marriage itself.