Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Here’s a statement that angers both conservatives and liberals: I support gay marriage as long as I don’t have to see the couples kiss.

Liberals hate hearing this line because they know it means that, yes, I’ll back gay rights in political exchanges and editorials, but I’m personally more comfortable watching football with conservatives over beers in golf course clubhouses than drinking herbal teas and talking with other men about strategies to reduce our waist lines to 30 inches. You know, gay stuff.

On the other hand, conservatives like Bob Vander Plaats and Rick Santorum, two men more obsessed with sex than Alfred Kinsey, see gay marriage as a crack in the door to an auditorium of social ills and calamities.

Vander Plaats, a Sioux City businessman and leading social conservative voice in Iowa, and Santorum a former U.S. senator from Pennsylvania and presidential candidate, in interviews with The Daily Times Herald rejected any contention that their opposition to gay marriage stems from hatred of homosexuals.

We put the questions to Santorum this way: How does the fact that there are a handful of gay couples married in Carroll affect my heterosexual life and your heterosexual life? How does it hurt other people in Carroll, Iowa, that there are folks among us we may not even know who happen to be gay and happen to be married? How does that hurt my life?

 “Because it (gay marriages) changes the definition of an intrinsic element of society in a way that minimizes what that bond means to society,” Santorum said. “Marriage is what marriage is. Marriage was around before government said what it was. It’s like going out and saying, ‘That tree is a car.’ Well, the tree’s not a car. A tree’s a tree. Marriage is marriage. You can say that tree is something other than it is. It can redefine it. But it doesn’t change the essential nature of what marriage is. Marriage is a union between a man and a woman for the purposes of the benefit of both the man and the woman.”

Let’s pray the gay away here and accept that Santorum and Vander Plaats are dead-to-rights-correct about marriage and its value to society. This newspaper each Wednesday celebrates the longevity of some wonderful and wonderfully long marriages. Several years ago I wrote a story about (the now late) Jack and Grace Juergens who had been married for 70 years.

And let’s take at face value that it’s worth spending our collective time supporting marriage, from government policy to neighborly encouragement.

Then look at the numbers.

The threat to marriage isn’t coming from gays.

The U.S. census shows us that only half of 1 percent of Iowans live in gay arrangements — both married and unmarried.

There are just 27 couples in Carroll County who identify themselves as gay and living together. Up in Ida County there are only two census-identified gay couples. Over in Crawford County there are 15 such couples.

Here’s a question: Can you name any of the gay couples?  I can’t.

Meanwhile, from 2000 to 2010, the number of unmarried straight couples shot up 43 percent in Iowa, from 53,000 to 76,000, and the number of Iowans living alone went up 11 percent, from 313,000 to 347,000.

If Vander Plaats and Santorum would just do the math, it would seem they are spending an awfully disproportionate amount of time dwelling on what the state’s relatively few gay people are doing or not doing.

Go to any apartment building in Carroll and randomly knock on a door. The odds of finding a gay couple smooching away are slim. But it’s a flip of the coin that you’ll be greeted by a single mother with a couple of kids rolling around on Doritos-specked carpet.

If promoting marriage — and not bashing gays for political expediency — is truly the Vander Plaats-Santorum mission, they should be zeroing in on straight men and women, the majority of our city, state and nation, who are doing a fine job of wrecking marriage, or at least making it more irrelevant to their lives, through cohabitation and flying solo.