Monday, July 21, 2008

Same-Sex Marrieds? I Don't See You!


Shall we forgive America its social conservatism? We are the mildly slow and poorly bred among the First World, watching without learning from the examples of our hipper siblings.

While I here have reveled in the puerile asininity of anti-gay and anti-SSM folk predicting all manner of disasters that never occur, there's more. Many segments came at SSM with the attitude that if they don't acknowledge reality, it disappears.

Consider that the U.S. Census Bureau will again redact data to ignore same-sex couples. If they don't record them, do they not exist on the federal level, despite legal marriages in two states?

The every-decade federal census is required by the Constitution. It affects many important aspects of public life, such as the number of representatives and senators each state gets in Congress. We naively figure that the bureau follows the law and really counts people.

It is to laugh.

Wives? Got 'em.

Similarly to the current closed-eyes on homosexual spouses, crawl into the WABAC machine with me. One of my many part-time jobs in 1970 when I lived in Cambridge was follow-up census. Even then, the feds had a well-established set of counting tricks.

The follow-up was for those who did not return the mailed form. White and black alike, many of these citizens had grown to adulthood with no knowledge of what the census was. Some asked what they could win if they answered my questions. Others seemed distressed to hear that they were legally required to reply. In Roxbury, neighbors in two apartment buildings warned me away from fortified doors. Those were drug dealers' establishments. I wore a federal ID with my name; one 19-year-old black guy looked it at, came two inches from my face and muttered angrily, "Your name is Ball. My name is Ball. You know that that means."

The most fascinating aspect was the polygamous families though. A few black families had one male head of household and two, three, four or five wives. They were quite open about it and the man of each house claimed he had married each wife. When I brought three of these forms on one day, my supervisor was not flustered. He told me that I should record a married couple for the husband and first wife and unrelated adults for all the others. The children went under their mother's listing.

That was dishonest and honest. It fit the most literal command of the census — to count everyone. Yet, it avoided the reality and messiness of lives. It was not the census staff's job to report bigamy. Yet, the resulting data would not reveal how many married couples were in Roxbury, Boston, Massachusetts, United States of America. As far as my supervisor was concerned, this avoided asking his boss' boss' boss' boss to adjust the classifications to accommodate real life.

Even worse for 2010, we have a shameless pandering to the most conservative fantasies of the federal government. With the Defense of Marriage Act in place, the feds like to pretend that neither Massachusetts nor California legally marry same-sex couples. Moreover, they can't begin to wade into the more ambiguous world of civil unions. They may think the unmarried partner classification covers domestic partners in states that try to provide a separate-but-equal class.

Immediately, the People for the American Way have a petition on the Net that demands some honesty here. It reads:
I was dismayed to learn that, in taking the 2010 Census, the Bureau intends to "edit" the accurate responses of legally married same-sex couples to report them falsely as "unmarried partners." Such "editing" would not only be highly offensive, it would lead to the reporting of inaccurate demographic data, completely contrary to the Bureau's mission and goals.

Politics should have no place in the Census. Accuracy should be the only criterion.

Legally married same-sex couples who report themselves as such should be counted that way.
Historians will have a good time with such childish ignoring of reality. They can recognize that states with laws and/or amendments hoping to delay SSM locally responded viscerally to fear of change. However, with the census, such petty and irrational deceit is contemptible. It was a bureaucratic decision to deceive.

Him? He's Just a Friend.

This was a rich week for such examples of small brained and hardhearted. Consider the 118-year-late historical revisionism of the Roman Catholic Church. The Vatican has just decided that the Anglican Church's most famous convert can no longer lie with his beloved, another man, in the grave.

The Venerable John Henry Cardinal Newman will be posthumously separated from his life companion, Fr. Ambrose St. John. The Cardinal, it seems, is on the track to sainthood, and the guys in Rome would rather people not know that his final wish was that the two of them lie together until eternity in a joint grave in Birmingham, England.

On Ambrose's death in 1875, the Cardinal wrote, "I have ever thought no bereavement was equal to that of a husband's or a wife's, but I feel it difficult to believe that any can be greater, or anyone's sorrow greater, than mine."Then multiple times before his own death in 1890, he repeated such clear commands as, "I wish, with all my heart, to be buried in Fr Ambrose St John's grave - and I give this as my last, my imperative will. This I confirm and insist on."

The Cardinal's remains will be reinterred in a sarcophagus as the Congregation of the Saints in Rome prepares to make him a saint. In that arcane hierarchy, he has gone from Venerable and the current Pope is ready to declare him Blessed. Cardinal Newman has one miracle to his credit. One more and he's in.

The Vatican is in an awkward position of either pretending there was no relationship between the two men or that times were different and friendship had a different meaning back then. As Cardinal Newman expert Fr. Ian Ker said, "The concept of friendship has died. No one in those days would have suspected anything." He added that the church would not allow such a co-burial today.

Press Secretary for the Birmingham Oratory Peter Jennings washed his hands. He said the order came from the Vatican.

Newly Disappeared

A much more trivial deceit come from The Newlywed Game. Good As You reports that the relaunch is all ready to adjust for SSM — by forbidding it on screen.

I don't suppose we should expect gossipy game shows to rise above the lowest common denominator, but give me a break. The show's eligibility requirements have made outrageous recognition. These include, page 1, section D:
Each newlywed team of Contestants must be legally married to each other (legal marriage defined as one that is legally valid in all 50 states of the United States) and, upon Producer’s request, must be able to provide proof of marriage (i.e. a marriage certificate) that shows that Contestants are legally married to each other. As of the tape date of the Program, Contestants must still be newlyweds (which is defined as the period of two (2) years after the date of Contestants’ original marriage to each other).
That's right. No SSM on LITE TV game-show slots. Let's keep reality from interfering with wasting time and intellect.

Ostrich Stereotypes

So from the most formal to the most old fashioned to the most trivial, we have a benighted confluence of fools. The feds, the Vatican and even a disposable game show share the traits of delusion. Pretend that SSM doesn't exist and for them it doesn't, at least in 2008 and 2009.

Yup, man and a woman, that's a marriage, except for those awkward polygamous Biblical patriarchs and such. Yup, there were and are no homosexuals among Roman Catholic clergy. Yup, there's nothing wrong with being a legally married same-sex couple, except you can't humiliate yourself on game-show TV.

The census sorts are lifer bureaucrats. They take orders. The Vatican sorts are lifer bureaucrats. They take orders. The minor cable network types do anything for a buck.

The common thread is amorality and dishonesty. Don't expect any of them to apologize when times change. They were only doing their jobs, right?

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