Occasionally my training as an engineer prompts me to ask, “why aren’t conservation laws more useful in social science?” In economics, everything is held together with bungee cords (which is OK, all physical mechanisms are more or less elastic) but the quantities of everything, including money, seem to be spongy as well.
Analysis of gay marriage, as I understand the opponents, seems to be an exception, and I thought it would be comforting. They tell us children are better off raised in conventional marriages. OK, but exactly what children are these that will be so raised if we forbid gay marriage? There must be a fixed number of preconception souls and a fixed rate of births, that force soul 43569 to be born in a marriage of a man and a woman (not, of course, to a single careless teenager) when the avenue into a gay marriage is closed. Loony, incomprehensible theology/ontogenic science, but it does entail a conservation law (perhaps that’s why conservatives like it?).
Next line of attack: gay marriage is bad for heterosexual marriage. I get it: marriages are fixed in number, and if we prevent gay people from marrying others of the same sex, they will have to marry someone of the opposite sex, and those will be better marriages, whether a gay guy paired up with a lesbian or a heterosexual married to a homosexual, than the respective partners would have had in like-gendered couples (I’m using gender to denote a sexual identity). Right.
I may have the wrong idea entirely here; maybe good marriage karma is the thing that’s fixed in quantity, and every gay marriage sops up some that is therefore not available to a straight couple. As a co-proprietor of a conventional marriage, I note the warning that more gay marriage will damage my own, but I despise the community of bigots and haters for giving us absolutely no guidance about how we can protect ourselves against the danger that’s now spreading despite their best efforts to nip it in the bud. It’s like the oil spill: sure, we should prevent blowouts before they happen, but we should also have a backup plan.
Is the evil something that leaks out of the apartment of the gay couple down the street and into our windows at night if we leave them open – can I at least see it (rainbow colored, maybe) in time to put on sunscreen, or a respirator, or long underwear? Does it go the other way; can sacredness be vacuumed out of our happy home into theirs (and will it be happy there and stay)? Can I get it back while they’re away skiing? Or is it the kind of thing we catch watching Rachel Maddow more than three nights a week, and would more coverage of John Ensign’s and Newt Gingrich’s very straight domestic histories cancel it out?
As important as prophylactic guidance is, we also need public service announcements with symptoms clearly described, and I call upon the gay marriage early warning system to step up. What, dammit, are the seven signals of a straight marriage succumbing to gay marriage injury, and what are harmless distractions we can ignore? I had to decide between pleated and plain-front chinos in Costco and realized that even recognizing the difference could be a tiny cloud on our horizon; my wife’s last haircut seemed to be a little shorter than the one before. Are we in trouble? If the Supreme Court leaves us naked before this threat, would firearms help, or more throw pillows on the furniture? Or will we need to hit the streets with pitchforks and purify our neighborhood (in Berkeley, that’s a major project, not to mention who in Berkeley even has a pitchfork? so we’re hoping for something smaller scale, maybe with incense or spells).
Please! Tell us what we really need to know, and soon: I’m going to a gay wedding in two weeks – will I be OK if skip the cake, or do I have to keep my fingers crossed during the vows?