Kudos to Kenneth Burns for his well-written story, 'Rallying the Faithful' (10/6/06). He presents the views of selected Christian clergy regarding the proposed constitutional amendment banning gay marriage. And, as I read, I drifted off a bit from time to time, thinking of some of the things that I have experienced, and of some of the things that I have read, over the course of my 65 years.
On the existential front ' regarding something that I saw 45 years ago ' I thought of a time when I happened upon a gay couple, just off of a foot trail in a secluded, wooded area. They were, well, enjoying each other's company. I was repulsed, and I quickened my pace. Otherwise put, I got the hell out of there and, shortly thereafter, I threw up.
Mr. Burns quotes Julaine Appling, who addressed a group at the Faith United Methodist Church, as claiming that 'normal, straight people are wired to be offended by the sight of amorous gay men.' Well, I'm no electrician, but I suspect that, somewhere along the Wauwatosa electrical lines, I was wired thus. (Still, I find it a little curious that Ms. Appling has nothing to say about us 'normal, straight men,' replete with our distinctive wiring, when it comes to the offense we take at the sight of lesbian lovers.)
Anyway, let's begin there. Yes, lots and lots of straight men are offended at the sight of gay males' love-making. But one must now ask: What is the lesson that we Americans should glean from Ms. Appling's observation?
That 'mere offense' entails...what? That anything that offends the majority of Americans should be banned? That it should be made illegal? That God Himself also takes offense? Well, okay. Let's see.
I confessed that I once had a 'visceral reaction' (to use Ms. Appling's terms) at seeing a gay couple make love. But just now, I must confess other visceral reactions that I've had as I read Mr. Burns' report.
I'm not terribly keen on putative Christians who deign to inform me of 'God's plan for marriage.' Nor am I especially fond of those who, resplendent in elegant, clerical garb ' tastefully complemented with the lovely accent-piece of the Cross of Christ ' tell me how to vote so as to 'purify the culture of the United States.'
May I suggest that 'the culture of the United States' was forged three centuries ago on the European continent during the time of the Enlightenment?
It was John Locke, after all, who coined the phrase 'the inalienable rights of life, liberty and property.' And, not to be outdone, Thomas Jefferson, Locke's attentive student, amended Locke's phrase with one that now adorns our Declaration of Independence: 'unalienable Rights to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness.'
For the Enlightenment philosophers, freedom is the summum bonum, 'the highest good.' To paraphrase David Hume, freedom is to be extended 'to the uttermost extent of its legal tether.' Indeed, these patriots believed so strongly in freedom that, in the late 19th century, their considerable influence was felt by John Stuart Mill, who stood tall in the English parliament so as to champion voting rights for women.
Imagine that! Of course, in so doing, he had neither God's blessing nor Ms. Appling's wise counsel. And, sadly, the supposedly enlightened Mr. Mill, unlike the 'good, solid churchgoers' of whom Ms. Appling now speaks, was seemingly unaware of God's plan for women. And, so, Mill was ridiculed.
Twenty-five centuries ago, the Greek philosopher Empedocles maintained that, if turtles had gods, they would be turtles. And, today, if American bigots have clergy, they will be bigots.
Richard Behling, Cottage Grove
A passage from 'Rallying the Faithful' reminded me of an earlier call in Isthmus to bring back the George Segal sculpture to Orton Park ('Bring 'Gay Liberation' Home,' 9/1/06). His sculpture depicts homosexual couples as universally human and expressing a very human trait: love. By using anonymity and tenderness Segal denies the 'visceral reaction' that some may have, and instead invites us to be not afraid. After all, Jesus didn't have a visceral reaction to the woman at the well, he had a conversation.
The referendum attacks domestic partnership benefits as being special benefits that would cost extra? Give me a break! Gays have been paying for public schools year after year after year, a public service that as a group we don't use nearly as much. Ditto for public health programs, insurance, playgrounds and anything else involving children.
Gays have a term of endearment for your portion of society ' breeders. But it's hard to chuckle during this time of warfare against our 'pursuit of happiness,' as Jefferson so perfectly phrased it all those years ago.
So, many of us went out of our way to put their partners and children on public display to illustrate for the brain-cell-impaired of the world. 'Yes, of course we love and value children,' we cry each Pride Day and times in between. Personally, the birth of my niece and nephew changed my life, turned me into one of those annoyingly mushy people who'd bug their friends and co-workers with their latest photo or triumph.
And that's not because I'm gay. It's because I'm human. Should I pursue happiness more slowly than you breeders, or with fewer expectations? And why aren't more of you nauseated beyond belief that your government ' the one you and I pay taxes to every day ' would legislate that right away from me?
Mary Ann Swissler
I find it grossly misleading that Julaine Appling would say that voting yes on the constitutional amendment banning gay marriage would prevent judges from legislating from the bench. If this amendment passes, there are at least two issues the judiciary would have to decide.
The Wisconsin judiciary would first have to decide whether discrimination included in the state's constitution trumps the first sentence in the Constitution's declaration of rights.
Second is whether the 14th Amendment to the federal Constitution, which guarantees equality and prevents the states from imposing discrimination on any U.S. citizen, will prevail over any state wanting to discriminate.
In addition, the clause banning relationship arrangements 'substantially similar' to marriage will require Wisconsin judges to determine what substantially similar means and to whom it applies.
One can speculate, and reasonable minds may come to differing conclusions, but arguing that passage will prevent judicial activity is dishonest.