What a country, huh? Just when it seems like we're sliding down the proverbial plumbing toward an archetypally leaky septic tank, Americans -- well, a few Americans, anyway -- do something of such radiant awesomeness that it make you want to raise a flag and salute.
I speak, of course, of the New York legislature and their courageous vote to legalize marriage between people of the same gender. Now gay men and lesbians can marry their beloveds, just like straight people. They can have pre-nups and china patterns and snarky in-laws and queasy lavender bridesmaids' dresses and receptions with overcooked standing rib roast, cheesy music and hog-whimpering drunk cousins. They can have screaming 2-year-olds and parent-teacher conferences and arguments over who mows the lawn and who loads the dishwasher and who cooks the Thanksgiving turkey and who puts the bike together Christmas morning and family vacations and family dinners in the knowledge that finally nobody can tell them they are not a "real" family, because they are -- even in the often myopic eyes of the law.
The way this unadulterated progress happened almost restores my faith in government. New York's Democratic Gov. Andrew Cuomo, son of the less caustic Mario, convinced (threatened? cajoled?) a critical handful of Republican senators to vote for the marriage-equality bill. There was plenty of lobbying on the other side, too, not least from New York's Roman Catholic bishops who threw their mitred weight around something fierce (the Vatican has charged Cuomo with "public concubinage" for living with a woman to whom he is not married). In the end, the bill was amended and passed 33 to 29. Isn't that the way it's supposed to work? Ain't that America?
Not surprisingly, plenty of hissy fits got pitched. Nicholas DiMarzio, Bishop of Brooklyn, has called for priests to "shun" those who voted for the bill. One New York Baptist leader called the vote "a cold, hard slap in God's face." The always-reliable Rev. Pat Robertson, who declared that God smote Haiti with an earthquake because its people made a pact with Satan 200 years ago, said the vote signaled the collapse of America: "just like Sodom." Michele Bachman, who cannot help herself, told Chris Wallace on Fox "News" that she was totally for states' rights to pass any laws they want, except she is totally against marriage for "the Gay," a conundrum she would solve by passing an amendment to the federal constitution banning marriage for "the Gay" despite her idea that states can override the federal supremacy clause. Or something.
There's no sensible argument against gay marriage. Forget biology: if "Adam and Steve" want to have a kid, they can adopt or use a surrogate, just as many hetero couples do. Forget the fallacy that children need one mother and one father; there is zero evidence that being brought up in a loving household with two mothers or two fathers harms children in any way. Forget the Bible: It's true Leviticus 18:22 describes man on man action as an "abomination" but the Old Testament also insists it's OK to sell your daughter into slavery and says wearing cotton and polyester blends (I paraphrase slightly) is sinful.
This is not to say that all of America is ready for equality. Twenty-nine states (including Florida) have constitutional bans on same-sex marriage and a dozen more have laws against it. Most of these states used to have bans on interracial marriage, too. A couple of U.S. Supreme Court decisions (Perez in 1948 and Loving in 1967) finally killed off that hateful nonsense. It'll probably take another high court case to resolve this issue, and it may well not come out favorably given the current composition of the court. (If you need a reason to vote for Barack Obama next year, consider what kind of judge any of the Republicans running would be likely to appoint).
The good news is that the argument against same-sex marriage is already lost. My college students don't have a problem with it; they all have gay friends, maybe even gay siblings. In a few years, they'll be running things. In a few years, it'll be clear that God isn't going to hurl an asteroid or visit a plague of killer hamsters on New York, so maybe everybody will calm down. And your grandchildren will wonder what the big damn deal was anyway. After all, love is love is love.
Diane Roberts is Solares Hill Capital Bureau Chief.