The Gay Marriage Prop

Gay Marriage Prop

In May of last year, you would be hard-pressed to find a single soul in the country who wasn’t tweeting, texting or telephoning another regarding Obama’s so-called revolutionary (emphasis on “evolutionary”) stance on gay marriage. Earth shattering? Hardly, especially since a plurality of Americans at that time already supported the novel notion that homosexuals who pay the same taxes and abide by the same laws should also be afforded the same opportunities to marry whom they please.

And yet, it served its purpose. In the same month, as unmanned drones–another Obama endorsement–killed several “militants” in Yemen on legally indefensible and morally bankrupt grounds, most Americans were too busy replaying the hallowed Robin Roberts ABC interview on YouTube to notice, let alone care about our brave president’s markedly less courageous affairs abroad. Marriage equality, the 21st century response to the 1960’s civil rights movement, was finally upon us. Nearly four years into the worst collapse since the Great Depression, change, it seemed, had arrived. “Hope” was no longer tri-colored and two-dimensional, and the wave of social progress, inclusivity and tolerance had crested and its strength could not be stopped. And for your information, Ms. Palin, that hopey-changey stuff is working out great.

Let’s fast-forward several months. In November, Obama likely caused Karl Rove to realize for the first time that he, too, was burdened with functioning tear ducts. The president’s exhilarating and ambitious second inauguration address helped extinguish many doubts and disappointments felt by a great number of people throughout the nation. But such a sweet victory inevitably came with a price; that is to say, a bitter and badly bruised Congress that rivals a pile of bricks in terms of give and inspiration.

Along with the weather, self-induced fiscal crises became mainstays on most evening news programs. Paul Ryan unfortunately didn’t go away, but confidence in his party did. And just recently, both sides of the political aisle presented budgets so banal that they’d fail to resuscitate a hardy mum in autumn. All the while, both parties gave themselves a bad facelift. Republican darlings got younger and tanner and thirstier; Democrats shed what slight spine that hadn’t yet eroded and filled that thimble-sized void with a reserved embrace of markedly more conservative policies than their own constituents wanted–or voted for. And yet, as the effects of the recently-enacted sequester have already begun to manifest themselves in consumer spending habits and labor force stats (check out March’s jobs report for a stirring example of depression-by-numbers), we’re still talking about gay marriage.

To be sure, the issue is of real importance, and it’s truly a shame that while we possess the intelligence necessary to successfully clone a sheep we still require the Supreme Court to determine the constitutional “limits” of love. But given its timing, doesn’t this most recent flood of gay marriage tweets and testimonies evoke shades of last May? Is it not a bit odd that, as each party paints economic visions that are little more than a study in retrograde, congresspeople on both sides are finally “coming out” of the woodwork to present themselves as harbingers of extreme progress via their newfound endorsement of gay marriage? In other words, while your 80-year-old gay self may indeed be working a minimum wage grocery store job the day the Grim Reaper proceeds to check out, at least you can take solace in the fact that your compassionate representative supports your right to marry the spouse that you, thanks to your long hours and spectral assets, never get to see.

As much as we might wish otherwise, it is the ugly issues of increasing economic–not social–inequality, poverty and partisanship with which Americans need to be most fully concerned today, as those are the ones whose effects will be felt most severely tomorrow. We should not be fooled by politicians who use the culturally and politically trendy issue of gay marriage as a cheap, relatively risk-free way to distract us from their other, less admirable and far more impacting agendas. After all, social equality means little when it comprises the caboose of the last train out of the New Deal bound for Austerity Land.


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