I have constantly to recalibrate the sense of unreality enveloping the marriage issue because the distance from reality seems to grow day by day. One of my touchstones is Richard Cohen’s column in the Washington Post, whenever he addresses the subject, as he just has again in his May 20 column. The occasion was the release of an HBO film, “The Normal Heart,” a movie version of Larry Kramer’s play about the beginning of the HIV-AIDS epidemic and the apparent indifference of President Ronald Reagan and New York Mayor Ed Koch. The air of unreality in this column could not be thicker.
We begin, of course, with his experience of homophobia as a mere lad of 16, when some yahoo told him about how he beat up homosexuals with brass doorknobs. In benighted America of that time, Cohen tells us, “we knew of racism and anti-Semitism,” but were really unaware of homophobia. I grew up in the 1950s, but I don’t really remember it being okay to beat up anyone with brass doorknobs. I didn’t meet the yahoo with whom Cohen was acquainted, so I can’t contradict him (but I do know that most violence against homosexuals is perpetrated by other homosexuals).
We move from the implied equivalency of racism, anti-Semitism, and homophobia to the delightful confusion Cohen experiences as “momentary vertigo figuring out who the husband is and who the wife is” in social situations with his “married” homosexual friends. Now, if you’re an anti-Semite, you probably don’t have any difficulty in distinguishing who the Jews are. If you are racist, you probably can tell a black man from a white man. But how can you tell the difference between the husband and the wife in a same-sex couple? That might be a real stumper for a homophobe but, for Cohen, it’s just a charming matter of etiquette.
It doesn’t seem to occur to him that this might be the tip-off to a problem, and the problem is not homophobia. If you can’t tell the difference between the husband and the wife in a couple, they are probably not spouses. Spouses are easy to spot – one is a man and one is a woman. Why is this so? Because spousal love is both unitive and procreative. That is what defines marriage, and why it is necessarily heterosexual by the nature of what it is. Two men and two women may love each other, but they cannot have a love that is either unitive or procreative, which is why they are not spouses in reality.
Nonetheless, Cohen insists – and here the unreality gets thicker – that, “This love of men for men and women for women is no different and no less powerful than the love of men for women and women for men.” Think of all the things you would have to not know, or be willing to ignore, in order to believe this. Spousal love is different from other types of love, which is not to condescend to sisterly, brotherly, avuncular or parental love. These types of love are defined by the way in which it is appropriate to love the other person. The only type of love which it is right to express sexually is spousal love – which is, as I said, uniquely unitive and procreative. Using sex to express the other types of love is a sure sign that it is not love which is being expressed.
Love seeks the well-being of the other person. An unchaste act, which is any sexual act – heterosexual or homosexual – outside of the spousal relationship, harms the person on whom it is performed. It is self-seeking, not self-giving. It damages both persons, regardless of their intentions.
Cohen’s air of unreality also envelops the US court system. On May 19, the Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit rejected a bid to stay the ruling that invalidates Oregon’s constitutional ban on same-sex marriage. Judge Michael McShane said, “I believe that if we can look for a moment past gender and sexuality, we can see in these (same-sex) plaintiffs, nothing more or less than our own families, families who we would expect our constitution to protect, if not exalt, in equal measure.” This is an extraordinary remark, which says, in effect, “if we can only look past what something is, we can see something else there.” Indeed, we can. If we would only look past a giraffe’s neck, we could call it a donkey. On the other hand, we might also wish to call the donkey a giraffe. This might be confusing but at least they would be equal.
Families come from parents. You can’t look past the parents and still have a family because there would be no family there. This is what comes from looking “past gender and sexuality,” which are the only means by which families are generated. Homosexual acts cannot generate families; therefore, their “families” cannot be the same. If there are children present in it, we may be sure that both parents are not. That is a lot to look past.
I have not seen the Kramer play or the HBO film of it, so I cannot comment directly on its contents. According to Cohen, the film indicts Koch and Reagan for ignoring “a public health menace that needed immediate attention”. Then comes the kicker: “the tendency then and somewhat still today was to blame gay men for their plight. The proposed remedy was to deprive them of their sex life – a remedy some felt was worse than the disease.” This is part of the homosexual martyrology that it is easy to see the absurdity of when it is transposed to other health problems.
How does this sound: the tendency is to blame smokers for their lung cancer, and to propose a remedy – giving up cigarettes – that is worse than the disease; or, the tendency is to blame alcoholics for their liver disease and to propose a remedy – giving up alcohol – that is worse than the disease. According to this logic, the urgent public health remedy would be to find a solution to lung cancer that would allow smokers to continue to smoke and a treatment for liver disease that would allow alcoholics to continue to drink. Analogously, as implied in Cohen’s analysis, we must find a remedy for AIDS that would allow active homosexuals to continue to behave promiscuously. However, the purpose of medicine is to restore an organ to health, not to allow its continued abuse.
Does that sound too harsh? Yet on every pack of cigarettes, there is a warning that smoking causes cancer, and there are warnings on every bottle of alcohol that it may be injurious to your health. I wonder why there are no warning signs in Richard Cohen’s column regarding the sodomitical and other sexual behavior he seems to be justifying. It is likely far more dangerous for a homosexual to engage in sodomy than it is for him to smoke or drink. Just go to the Centers for Disease Control to see the statistics. The US Department of Health and Human Services reflects the most current data from Centers for Disease Control, as of March 2012 (“MSM” means men who have sex with men):
• MSM accounted for 61 percent of all new HIV infections in the United States in 2009, as well as nearly half (49 percent) of people living with HIV in 2008 (the most recent year national prevalence data is available).
• CDC estimates that MSM account for just 2 percent of the US male population aged 13 and older, but accounted for more than 50 percent of all new HIV infections annually from 2006 to 2009. In 2010, MSM accounted for 61 percent of HIV diagnoses.
Rather than informing us of these unpleasant facts, Richard Cohen lambastes poor Jerry Falwell for having said, “AIDS is the wrath of a just God against homosexuals.” Falwell’s comment was as inappropriate as saying lung cancer is God’s wrath against tobacco smokers or that liver disease is God’s wrath against alcoholics.
Yet might not these diseases, along with HIV-AIDS, be Nature’s way of tapping us on the shoulder to let us know that these activities are misuses of our bodies? Isn’t it good news that, thanks to medical science, we now know which of our activities help engender these diseases, so that we can change our behavior? Shouldn’t we tell everyone about this?
We seem to have gotten that message out in regard to tobacco and alcohol, but not yet in terms of homosexual behavior. Putting a generative organ in an excretory organ is hygienically compromised and spreads disease. That is not the fault of Edward Koch or Ronald Reagan. It is the way we are made. It is what is. We may resent it. We may try to rebel against it. But we will suffer the consequences and, when we do, we will probably try to blame others for it.
It is, after all, as Richard Cohen tells us all about love: “it is this love that is at the heart of the same-sex marriage movement.” And who should come riding to the rescue of this love in court, but super-lawyers David Boies and Ted Olsen, who “are both, at heart, admirably romantic.” In fact, they’re so romantic that each of them has been married multiple times, Boies three times and Oslon four. If that’s not romantic, I don’t know what is. Or might there be some relationship between serial polygamy and the rationalization for homosexual marriage? One thing for sure is that they embrace unreality together with a giant hug.
What if you are not willing to embrace this romance? Well, then, you are probably back there with the knuckle-dragging yahoo and his brass door knobs, ready to pounce on the poor homosexuals. In other words, if you don’t share in the love, you probably hate.
As I am promoting my new book, Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything, on live radio call-in shows, I occasionally encounter this response from homosexuals and their supporters. However, it is I, like anyone who speaks up on this issue, who have become an object of hatred. As a result of one radio show, the LGBTQ Nation website posted a story on my interview, which elicited almost 340 comments of pure splenetic invective and vitriol directed at me. I don’t take this personally, but in the spirit of George Orwell’s remark that “the more a society drifts from truth, the more it will hate those who speak it.”
If people are ruled by their passions – and they rationalize their passion as “love” – they can only understand opposition to it in the form of another passion, hate – as opposed to their “love.” I try to explain that my opposition to the rationalization for homosexual behavior is not based upon any passion whatsoever, but upon reason. It is reason that tells me that sodomy is unreasonable, and therefore wrong. It is reason that should rule our passions, and we all have disordered passions of one sort or another. If reason becomes only a servant to our passions, then we become lost in unreality. That Richard Cohen, Judge McShane, David Boies and Ted Olsen cannot see this is a symptom of the larger unreality that is threatening to engulf us all.
Robert R. Reilly is the author of Making Gay Okay: How Rationalizing Homosexual Behavior Is Changing Everything, recently published by Ignatius Press.