Sex Rescues Politics Again

Protesters support gay marriage during a rally outside the Statehouse, Wednesday, Feb. 11, 2004, in Boston, as the state legislature convenes a constitutional convention to debate a proposal to rewrite the state constitution to ban same-sex marriages.
When I first heard the term "same-sex marriages," I was against them. I figured just because a couple is married, why should sex always have to be the same? All right, I didn't really think that about same-sex marriages, but I also didn't think they would become such a big deal. I guess my fingers slipped when I was taking the pulse of America, because boy, was I wrong.

Once again, sex has come to the rescue of politicians. Following in the tradition of campaigns against "dirty" words, rating TV shows, and the invention that was supposed to save our times — the "V-chip" — now they can talk about gay weddings. If they can discuss some sexual issue, they don't have to talk about the things that really make them uncomfortable, like why did they vote one way a few months ago, but now claim to believe differently? Or which taxes are good and which ones are bad for the economy? Or why are gas prices so high?

The day after Janet Jackson's breast was exposed for a micro-second on television, the head of the FCC was weighing in on the almost unspeakably shocking event. Faster than you could say "Lewinsky," Congressional committees were formed to investigate "Nipplegate" and other offensive fare being foisted on us by machines with an "off" button. But how long did it take for a committee to be formed to investigate why we received such poor intelligence on Iraq before sending over American soldiers to risk their lives?

Some people are against same-sex marriages, because, for the most part, they are against state laws. That sounds like a pretty good reason to me. It also implies a knowledge that states have traditionally made and enforced laws about marriage, and they can continue to do so. So, if this is something that the states don't want, there's no need for a constitutional amendment any more than there is for one that would set a minimum age for a driver's license.

There is also a group of people who feels that gays are just plain evil. So I'm not surprised that they are against same-sex marriages. They're also against gays eating breakfast.

There is a much larger group who say they have nothing against gays, but are against gays marrying, because, "Same-sex marriages threaten the sacred institution of marriage." Two questions: are things more "sacred" when gays must live together without marriage? Secondly, how can somebody else's marriage threaten yours?

In the past two weeks, thousands of gay couples were married in San Francisco. Is your respect for marriage smaller than it was two weeks ago? Is your marriage less important to you now? Do you love your spouse any less than you did before the "Valentine's Day weddings?" If your marriage is affected by the marriages of some strangers, don't blame the bride and groom. Blame your marriage.

What about all those celebrity weddings — like Britney Spears' — that seem to make a mockery of marriage? Should we pass a constitutional amendment forbidding flighty famous folks from tying the knot? What about that cousin of yours who married that guy that everybody knew would treat her horribly and eventually leave her? Should there be a constitutional amendment to prohibit that kind of unfortunate marriage?

If you're against gay marriages for legal, ethical, or emotional reasons, you're certainly entitled to these feelings. But do you believe it's such an important issue that things like national security, the economy, and foreign policy should be pushed aside so time and money can be spent on passing a constitutional amendment to prohibit them?

The fact that the nation is having this debate proves my point that our attention has shifted away from the more important issues of the day. Politicians always try to present themselves as puritanical, but they talk about sex so much, you'd think they were obsessed with the subject.

At one of the presidential debates this fall, look for this to happen: someone will ask one of the candidates a difficult question — maybe about the war, maybe about his voting record, or maybe about the economy. The candidate will hesitate, maybe even start to sweat through his makeup. But then he'll say something like, "That's an interesting question, but can you believe the kind of disgusting stuff they're showing on MTV?" Once again, sex will come to the rescue.

Lloyd Garver has written for many television shows, ranging from "Sesame Street" to "Family Ties" to "Frasier." He has also read many books, some of them in hardcover.

By Lloyd Garver