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That Incorribly Right-Wing Talk Radio!

Local talk host Steve Kass was discussing the Massachusetts gay marriage issue, and over the course of an hour (which is much more time than I have to spare), I was more and more inclined to call in. Kass is in favor of gay marriage, as is everybody whom I've come across in the Rhode Island media. He sort of reminds me of my grandfather, although Kass is quite a bit younger, in his approach. He sees ours as an evolving society, and he can't imagine people choosing to be gay. Therefore, he concludes that society can justly evolve such that people can be happy no matter the cards that they've been dealt.

However, I don't think he understands how much the culture and the youth environment has changed since he was young. For my grandfather, this generation gap is most pronounced with race. Far from being a monolithically oppresive nation for gays, in regions of our country, certainly the one in which I grew up, there was undoubtedly a gay caché. Even if that weren't true, people choose all sorts of lifestyles that others see as undesirable. Devout Catholicism, for example.

This relates to something that really hit me — smacked me upside the ear — as I listened to the show. Kass's call-screener, a young guy named Jeff, came on the air and ranted about how he's sick of sitting there listening to "crazy" people quote from the Bible. "Just go away," he said. "Go live in Bibleland."

I don't think we have instruments capable of measuring the speed at which that kid would have been whipped out the door if his comments were the reverse. Can you imagine? "We've been sitting here for an hour listening to these crazy people talk about their perverse lifestyles. Just go away. Go to Queerland."

So, anyway, I took a few minutes to calm down, and then I decided that I would follow through with my previous intention, which had been to make a non-Bible-based argument against gay marriage — something that, amazingly, nobody had done comprehensively. I dialed. A gruff-sounding Jeff put me on hold. He came back, and I explained the essence of my point. A minute later, Steve Kass said, "Okay, let's go out to Portsmouth." The phone clicked and I said, "Good morning."

And I discovered that I'd been disconnected. When I turned on the radio, Kass was speaking with some woman. Now, I don't know if I was the Portsmouth person whom he mentioned. I don't know whose finger hit the wrong button and disconnected me. And I certainly can't claim that it was intentional. Isn't it suggestive, though?

Rather than try again, I just sent the following email to Kass. We'll see what he says:

I tried to call, but was disconnected. I'm a better writer than speaker, anyway, and your screener certainly added a level of anxiety to making the call.

My first point is that the Mass. court decision does open the way wide for any type of arrangement: "the right to marry means little if it does not include the right to marry the person of one's choice, subject to appropriate government restrictions in the interests of public health, safety, and welfare." I don't see how brothers, for example, wouldn't have a legitimate claim on that basis.

My larger point reflects, as you said, that society changes, evolves, and it's proven more than a little reckless to let this swing like a live wire. This is why it isn't valid to argue that it won't affect my marriage; the question is whether it will affect my children's marriage — my children's society. I think that's beyond doubt, but it represents a worthwhile discussion.

But I don't think the argument is at the point of addressing that. We're still figuring out the forum for the debate. It is simply wrong to declare that the law has nothing to do with morality. It is impossible to avoid it, and indeed, a presumption of morality, however derived, is a founding principle of our nation. But the fact that the written law cannot apply with undue discrimination is why the legislature makes the laws, not the courts. If the courts can decide what's right, proper, or "where we are as a people" — changing the definition, as you admit, of what "marriage" means — then we could save a whole lot of money and time by dissolving legislative branches.

Personally, I'm sympathetic to committed gay couples, but I don't think it's yet been proven that they are the rule, or that they are enough of the rule to prevent corrosion of the institution. It's also pretty clear that there's no reason society will brake after including gays in the institution. In other words, it isn't gay marriage, necessarily, but what comes with it. Consider the degree of reinterpretation of the Bible that came with Bishop Robinson; more to the point, consider that he added extra-marital sex and divorce into the mix of Episcopalian acceptance. At the very least, gay marriage is bringing with it a judicial oligarchy. What else will it bring with it? Well, that's an argument to be had, not dismissed.

Frankly, I think Jeff illustrated the future of this movement with his "just go away" comment. "Go live in Bibleland?" People who quote the Bible are "crazy"? As offensive and unprofessional as his comments were, I think they're more important as a warning of a mindset that has no patience for differing opinion. Canada (a nation that the Mass. court cited in its opinion) already has multiple examples of acceptance of homosexuality in private and religious spheres being mandated.

Well, this is such a nexus of an issue that I could go on, but this is long enough as it is. Frankly, I'm beginning to worry that many in the media have no interest in conveying the less-easily-dismissed arguments of the other side. I guess there's always Bibleland... or perhaps a backlash in America that goes beyond what most Christians would like to see.

One thing's for sure. I'm not calling in to this station anymore, with the foreknowledge that the screener thinks I'm a hateful lunatic. That being the case, I don't know that I've got much reason to listen, either.

Posted by Justin Katz @ 12:24 PM EST