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Jewish World Review Oct. 18, 1999 /8 Mar-Cheshvan, 5760

Don Feder

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What's love got to do with it? -- GAY ACTIVISTS have a penchant for pushing the envelope while simultaneously portraying themselves as the victims of aggression.

Ellen and Anne are hoping Vermont lets them tie the knot. Comedian Ellen DeGeneres and her ofttimes companion, actress Anne Heche, say they'll take their vows in Vermont if the state's Supreme Court legalizes same-sex unions in a pending case.

Speaking at a rally at the University of Vermont on Oct. 11, DeGeneres gave her cause what she considers the ultimate validation: "This is not a gay issue ... this is about love."

Her point, and she really does have one, is that Ellen and Anne can't love each other unless society turns its back on more than 3,000 years of Judeo-Christian tradition and pronounces them wife and wife.

But 4 million Americans are currently cohabiting. Apparently, the lack of a license hasn't impeded their relationships.

Anne, Ellen and their cohorts are hoping the Vermont high court will oblige them by legislating gay marriage from the bench. Then they can visit the Green Mountain State, have a ceremony and demand that their home state recognize same.

On the other coast, where DeGeneres makes her home, an initiative to appear on the California primary ballot in March provides, "Only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California." The Protection of Marriage Committee collected almost 700,000 signatures to secure ballot status. Polls show the measure passing easily.

Mike Marshall of the opposition Californians for Fairness charges that the initiative isn't about protecting families but "denigrating gays." But gays have never been able to legally wed (each other) in any jurisdiction. So how is blocking their access to something they don't now have "denigrating" them?

In the alternative, Marshall argues that the initiative is superfluous, as no state currently recognizes gay marriage. Marshall can innocently assert this, while his movement tries in state after state (first Hawaii, now Vermont) to have same-sex unions blessed by judges who believe the law is synonymous with their social conscience.

In 1996 congressional testimony, Professor Hadley Arkes noted that marriage is properly confined to a man and a woman by the "natural teleology of the body ... namely, the inescapable fact that only two people, not three, only a man and a woman, can beget a child."

Traditional marriage is a recognition of both nature and reality. DeGeneres and Heche can't procreate together. Children are conceived by opposite-sex couples. Overwhelmingly, they are raised not by Ellen and Anne, or Bob and Bruce, but by a man and a woman. This remains far and away the best way to nurture the next generation.

Beaming 'brides'

If the movement succeeds, soon marriage will be so debased as to the render the concept meaningless. If Ellen and Anne may marry, why not Bob and Carol and Ted and Alice? Why not a man and his sister, a mother and her son?

"Red herring," activists roar. "We're not in favor of polygamy or incest.

Are siblings clamoring to wed? Is anyone out there pushing group marriage?"

But 20 years ago, gay marriage was equally unthinkable, a distinct non-issue. Historically, legal recognition of polygamous and incestuous unions is far more common than homosexual marriage.

And, yes, there are people sick enough to wish to marry blood relatives.

A Feb. 11, 1997, article in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel tells of a cohabiting brother and sister whose three children were taken by the state.

But they love each other, the sister's attorney pleaded a la Ellen.

It's not that legal recognition of gay marriage will result in millions seeking to emulate the Sultan of Bahrain or the Egyptian pharaohs. However, if Ellen and Anne can marry, there's no logical reason to deny matrimony to any couple (however odd) or combination (however complicated).

Tradition is gone. Nature, we're told, is a social construct. Religion mustn't intrude in political matters. What's left? Morality? But the same Bible that tells us incest is wrong also forbids a man to lie with a man.

Love can be strange, perverse, even psychotic. Some people love pain. Others are driven by obsessive love to acts of murder.

There are more important factors in this equation -- children, social stability, the survival of our civilization. But, what am I saying?

DeGeneres' Hollywood doesn't make movies praising social stability, so it can't count for much.

JWR contributing columnist Don Feder can be reached by clicking here.

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©1999, Creators Syndicate