To call someone a “hypocrite” is usually a pretty bad thing. No one enjoys being called that and it seems to be a fairly stinging sort of insult. For instance, Senators Larry Craig and David Vitter are both “family values” Republicans who got elected to their high offices, in no small part, based on their aggressive appeals to social conservatives. I suggest here that although these men may be fairly called “hypocrites,” their poor position to make certain statements is not nearly as important as what they have to say.
hyp·o·crite (n) 1 : a person who puts on a false appearance of virtue or religion 2 : a person who acts in contradiction to his or her stated beliefs or feelings.
Senator Craig, as you will recall, was rather publicly humiliated by being arrested for lewd conduct in a men’s room in the airport in Minneapolis. Specifically, he rubbed his foot on the foot of an undercover vice cop sitting in the next stall, which the cop said was a common way that gay men cruise for anonymous sex. The implication being, of course, that Senator Craig was cruising for a gay quickie in the men’s room while on the way back home from work in Washington. He pled guilty to a reduced charge of disorderly conduct, so he has formally and legally admitted he did something wrong after being accused of this. Craig denies being gay, but no one believes him. Senator Vitter, as you will recall, was rather publicly humiliated by being named as a client in the black book of the late “D.C. Madam” Jeane Palfrey. The firestorm surrounding the prosecution of Ms. Palfrey grew so intense that Ms. Palfrey apparently committed suicide rather than deal with it. His no-doubt humiliated wife stood by his side at the press conference when Senator Vitter admitted patronizing Ms. Palfrey’s services while serving in Congress.
So when Senators Craig and Vitter co-sponsor a resolution to adopt something called the “Marriage Protection Amendment,” which would render every same-sex marriage in the United States invalid, it is easy to call them hypocrites because they have treated their own marriages casually. But their attempt at lawmaking may well be a genuine expression of their ideals, even if their personal conduct falls short of realizing those ideals. They are only human, after all, despite the lofty atmosphere of power, privilege, and pretense in which they function. If we exclude from the category of people who can dispense moral guidance everyone who has fallen short of their moral ideals, there would be no one at all who could expound on issues of morality. So to some extent, we are all hypocrites, and yet we must nevertheless move forward as best we can with our moral lives.
These Senators may well be hypocrites for trying to “protect” your marriage and mine, after having trashed their own marriages. But that doesn’t necessarily mean that their own personal failings should be used to measure the merits of their proposal.
Consider a doctor who smokes. She will tell you not to smoke, that it causes cancer, that you’ll be healthier if you don’t smoke, and that the sooner you quit, the better it will be for you. She’s right. The fact of her own smoking habit does not make her advice about smoking in any way incorrect. Her behavior may render her advice a little less persuasive than it might otherwise be, but objectively, she’s right.
So I don’t think it’s right to attack the “Marriage Protection Amendment” because some of its legislative sponsors have less than perfect personal records for protecting their own marriages.
I think it’s right to attack the “Marriage Protection Amendment,” because it’s not gong to “Protect” anyone’s marriage at all. Remember – no one’s heterosexual marriage has been invalidated or diminished in any way by the adoption of same-sex marriage. Straight couples (like The Wife and me) are just as married now as we were before the Marriage Cases decision was announced. The only thing this proposed Constitutional amendment would do is take away someone else’s marriage.
That does not sound like “Protection” to me. No one has ever been able to explain to me how my marriage is in any way endangered by gay people marrying one another.
And think about the magnitude. We’re talking about a phenomenally small number of people who are actually taking advantage of this law. Since same-sex marriage licenses were made legal in Los Angeles County, it looks like about 2,000 licenses have been issued. Assuming proportionally similar numbers around California, that’s a total of about 7,000 same-sex marriages in the state. That’s 14,000 people in same-sex marriages out of 36.5 million – .038% (that’s thirty-eight out of every hundred thousand people).
Canada has roughly the same population as California. Same-sex marriages were first recognized in Ontario on June 10, 2003 and nationally in 2005. A total of 12,438 licenses were used as of October 31, 2006 in the entire nation of Canada, which had a national population of 32,987,532 that year. That means that after more than a year of same-sex marriage being legal in Canada, .075% of its population is in a same-sex marriage; that is to say Canada’s rate of same-sex marriage is about double California’s — although California has had same-sex marriage for 11 days now, and Canada has had it for more than five years. So if California’s experience is anything like Canada’s, we can anticipate the number of same-sex marriages not quite doubling over the next five years, until something like 30,000 or so Californians are in same-sex marriages. Meanwhile, the national average is that very close to half of all Americans are currently married, and with a miniscule exception from Massachusetts, they are all in opposite-sex marriages.
If you were to expand this projected experience to the entire nation, that would work out to under 113,000 same-sex marriages, total, for the whole country. That would make the proportion of same-sex marriages to opposite-sex marriages 674 to 1. For this you want to amend the Constitution, Senator Vitter? This is a threat to “traditional” marriage in a nation that has 76 million opposite-sex marriages, Senator Craig? To foreclose upon even the possibility that less than a quarter million people might do something that does not affect their fellow citizens at all?
Senators, do you really hate gay people that much, that you would use the great power and dignity that has been given to you, to go to that much effort to hurt so few of them? Shame on you both!
This is treating the Constitution like a plaything. That this is motivated by bigotry makes even more offensive. So don’t be mad at Senators Vitter and Craig because they’re hypocrites. Be mad at them because they are poor custodians of our fundamental national law.