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Til death due us part

Claire Heininger | Friday, January 16, 2004

“Father of the Bride” it wasn’t.

But the worst part about Britney Spears’ double-dare shotgun Las Vegas wedding last week wasn’t that the bride wore the now infamous “jeans and a baseball cap,” nor that only one of the above was white.

It wasn’t the media frenzy that followed, which rocketed even groom Jason Alexander’s spotlight-craving high school ex-girlfriend onto prime time entertainment news.

The worst part was what the 55-hour debacle inadvertently pointed out: While Britney’s celebrity was enough to merit a legal annulment, her heterosexuality was enough to merit an equally legal marriage.

The debate over whether Britney’s or any other marriage should be labeled “holy matrimony,” “civil union” or something in between reached its boiling point over the holidays, when the release of a New York Times/CBS News poll showed 55 percent of Americans to be in favor of a proposed constitutional amendment to restrict marriage to a union between a man and a woman.

While most supporters acknowledge that an amendment won’t automatically make the “straight lightbulb” go off in homosexuals’ heads, the promise that the gay lifestyle will remain in the shadows instead of on the altars is enough to win their support. Most of the 55 percent likely feel guilty about outright intolerance but have no qualms telling gays to keep their “confused” hands off a “sacred institution” and thus their commitment out of sight.

President Bush has publicly endorsed the idea of an amendment and plans to stress it as a major issue of the 2004 election campaign, most likely under the exploitative assumption that his Democratic opponent would refuse to sign it into law. As the party lines become entrenched and the shouts on each side get louder, it becomes easy to overlook the question at the root of the debate – whose job is it to decide?

Is it the President, Congress, the Supreme Court? Or is it the two people who are enough in love that they are willing face the daily disapproval of announcing that love for all to hear? Is the sanctity of marriage truly more threatened by homosexual couples’ perceived lack of “normalcy” than it is by the lack a seriousness and loyalty – a problem undeniably rampant in the traditional man-and-wife match?

If amendment supporters truly believe that it is up to the government to prevent homosexuals from marrying, they have every right to propose it. But it would serve them well to find a better disguise for their discomfort with gays – tellingly the poll found the strongest support for gay marriage among those who actually know gays personally – than to blame them for tarnishing a “sacred institution.” Britney, her baseball cap, and her limo driver escort just trampled that bit of wishful thinking for good.