I now have a commute (a fairly easy hour up Interstate 25 from Colorado Springs to Denver) to my new job with Colorado Christian University. I, of course, like to fill my time on the road productively so I played around with downloading some podcasts the other day. Yesterday I listened to a couple; one in particular really left me questioning where we are going as a culture.
The podcast was from NPR dealing with educational issues. Part of it was an interview done by Michele Martin of Lincoln Chaffee, currently Independent Governor of Rhode Island and former Republican Senator from that same state. Amongst several issues, the following interaction took place:
MARTIN: And, finally, one other national issue that's obviously being visited and addressed in Rhode Island is the whole question of same-sex unions. Earlier this month, you signed a law authorizing same-sex civil unions. Now, obviously, you know, issues like this obviously around the country, really, around the world, have generated a tremendous amount of intense feeling on all sides now.
Some people say that the law doesn't go far enough. Some people on the other side say that, you know, marriage should be between a man and a woman, one man, one woman. That they feel that this really undermines kind of core value. How did you come to a decision on this?
CHAFEE: Well, I'm embarrassed to say that Rhode Island does not have full marriage equality. And we're the state founded by Roger Williams. And the greatest liberties ever granted to any colony in the world back in 1663, I now - we're trailing on other New England states. New Hampshire legislature passed it. Vermont, of course, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York recently, and Rhode Island, just not giving full marriage equality.
But when you factor in the demographics of Rhode Island, we're a very high elderly state. And so change comes a little more slowly and we are the highest in the country, a Roman Catholic state. And so those two demographics certainly came to play in just getting that half (unintelligible) civil unions.
MARTIN: So you would've preferred full marriage equality. You just felt, what, the votes weren't there?
CHAFEE: Yes. I was pushing for it. I believe it could've gotten through the House of Representatives and maybe not through the Senate. But I would've liked to seen the roll called and see whether these members of our legislature want to be on the right side or the wrong side of history. And I think it's a - Rhode Island, we want the state to be a hip, happening place. And certainly marriage equality is part of that.The Governor is "embarrassed" that his state is behind other northeastern states... and that makes his argument right (everyone else is doing it)? Roger Williams would have approved of same sex marriages? Not if I read history correctly, he would fight hard for the rights of all individuals to be fair and balanced and not dictated by the church. However there is a dangerous assumption that religious people are the only ones who want traditional marriages. Not true.
Oh this gets better. He faults old people and Catholics as retarding progress and keeping Rhode Island from being "hip" and on the "wrong side of history." Insert Rhode Island joke here.
I am heartily offended that Governor Chaffee governs from this type of supposedly enlightened ivory tower. It is a brilliant rhetorical trick; marginalize everyone who happens to disagree with you and make them seem like they are to be ashamed of having a particular view. Regardless of what you think about the issue of same sex marriage, this type of marginalization is NOT what guys like Roger Williams had in mind.
My big issue is that striving for "marriage equality" is an assumed legislative move to redefine marriages as civil unions and assumes that the only way individual and relational rights can be protected is by overhauling the entire institution of marriage. Secular research has held for over 60 years that in society's that are built on the traditional model of marriage (one man and one woman) then those communities gain multiple benefits. There is no research that says if you happen to approve of non-traditional models then there are a host of detriments, but we do see over and over that there are benefits to this traditional set of roles. (See Maggie Gallagher's work as well as others).
Finally, the Governor hits on the key ideological issue; we want to be on the "right" side of history and we want to be "hip and happening". The danger is that those that are defining that world are not always very good at seeing beyond "new and improved" when it is neither.