The Truth, Mainly - 09/23/1996

Blessed be, the institution of matrimony has been saved
by Leon Satterfield

"Praise God and the U.S. Congress!" I say to my Dearly Beloved as I point to the front-page story. "Blessed be the tie that binds! The institution of matrimony has been saved!"

"Oh?" she says with no visible signs of alarm at my exclamation points. "Did they pass a law requiring that husbands be certified in toilet-bowl cleaning?"

"Better than that, m'love," I say. "They passed the Defense of Marriage Act and Clinton says he'll sign it."

"Must be an election year," she says. "And just how will the Defense of Marriage Act defend marriage?"

"For one thing, my little enchilada," I say, "it defines marriage as a legal union between one man and one woman. How about that?"

"Every failed marriage I've heard of," she says, "started out as a legal union between one man and one woman. How's this going to help?"

I gently explain—in a hushed voice—that it means the feds won't recognize or give spousal benefits to gay marriages.

"But," she says, "how will that defend straight marriages?"

"Just think about it a minute, Peg o' My Heart," I say.

There's a minute of silence.

"OK," she says. "I just thought about it. I still don't get it. How's the Defense of Marriage Act going to defend marriage?"

"I won't belittle your intelligence, Snookums," I say, squirming just a little, "by belaboring the obvious."

"Go ahead," she says. "Belabor the obvious."

"Well, Honey Lips," I say, taking a deep breath, "not recognizing gay marriage defends straight marriage by keeping the institution Biblically pure."

I whip out my Bible and read aloud Leviticus 18:22 where God tells Moses "Thou shalt not lie with mankind, as with womankind: it is abomination."

She looks over my shoulder and points to Leviticus 19:19 where God tells Moses "Thou shalt not let thy cattle gender with a diverse kind: thou shalt not sow thy field with mingled seed: neither shall a garment mingled of linen and woollen come upon thee."

"If Congress is going to pass the bill because of what's in Leviticus," she says, "should it also discriminate against marriage between people who have crossbred cattle? Or hybrid corn? Or wear linen and wool together? Wouldn't that be an even stronger Biblical defense of marriage?"

I scratch my beard and look wise.

"Ah, mein kleines Weinerschnitzel," I say. "Gays don't procreate. Marriage is for procreators."

"I see," she says. "So shouldn't Congress also refuse to sanction straight marriages that don't procreate? Have a baby in, say, two years or your marriage gets federally annulled. Wouldn't that be fair?"

I suck air through the gap in my front teeth and look out the window a while.

"Gay marriages, Dearie Doo," I say, "shouldn't be acknowledged because everybody knows that gays are notoriously promiscuous. They'd make a mockery of the vows."

"Good point," she says, "but shouldn't we withhold federal recognition when promiscuity sets in on straight marriages? Man steps out on wife and bingo, the FBI's on his trail and he has to pay back all the federal benefits he got for being married. That'd work, wouldn't it?"

Poor thing. She'll never learn to think like a man. I furrow my brow and try to put the argument in terms she'll understand.

"The Defense of Marriage Act defends marriage because it's pro-family, my little poppy seed muffin," I say. "We know it's pro-family because when Bob Kerrey voted against it, the Christian Coalition said he was anti-family."

"Oh well," she says. "That's settled then."

"I detect sarcasm, Small Vanilla Frozen Yogurt Cone o' Mine," I say.

"You do indeed," she says. "That's because you still haven't explained how discouraging gay marriages defends straight marriages."

I pinch the space between my eyebrows and try one more time.

"The Defense of Marriage Act does something else," I say. "It defends the heterosexual dignity of individual states by saying they don't have to honor gay marriages performed in another state. Whaddya say to that, Yum Yum?"

"I say this," she says, whipping a copy of the U.S. Constitution out from under her knitting. "Article IV, Section 1: 'Full faith and credit shall be given in each State to the public acts, records, and judicial proceedings of every other State.' Whaddya say to that, Bozo?"

I give it up then. I know better than to argue with someone who keeps a copy of the Constitution under her knitting.


Lincoln English Professor Satterfield writes to salvage meaning from his confusion. His column appears on alternate Mondays.

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