Gay marriage is no purple issue

“To officiate a union that is expressly not for the same godly purpose of procreation and to call such a relationship ‘sanctified’ is unacceptable to a sound mind.” — N. Michael Nunn, a member of Sinai Temple, Los Angeles, in a letter to fellow Persian Jews and congregants opposing gay marriage ceremonies at the temple

These shameful words could have come from Ayatollah Khomeini, the extremist religious fundamentalist from whose theocratic tyranny Nunn’s Persian forebears apparently fled at the time of the overthrow of the Shah.  

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Nunn’s letter, reported in last Saturday’s New York Times, used these words to criticize the recent announcement by the Sinai Temple’s rabbi, David Wolpe, that he would henceforth preside over gay marriages at this conservative-tradition synagogue. Wolpe actually made his announcement several weeks before the June 26 decision by the U.S. Supreme Court that had the effect of allowing gay marriage in California by allowing to stand a lower federal court decision overturning “Proposition 8,” the November 2008 state referendum that narrowly approved a ban on all same-sex marriages. 

In his letter, Nunn also wrote this outrageous sentence: 

“Homosexuality is explicitly condemned in Scripture and has been categorically and passionately rejected by all classical Jewish legal and ethical thinkers as a cardinal vice in the same category as incest, murder and idolatry.” 

Would any person of “sound mind” really state that homosexuality is in the “same category” as “incest, murder, and idolatry?” And of course Nunn is wrong that there are any — much less “all” — Jewish legal and ethical thinkers who would agree with his obscene comparison between gay marriage and “incest, murder and idolatry.”

Of course there are still many Americans who do not support same-sex marriage. Witness the majority of Californians who voted in November 2008 for Proposition 8 to ban gay marriage in the state, albeit by a narrow 52 percent vote. But that was five years ago. Public opinion has changed substantially even in the past one or two years, as polls show. This is especially the case among younger-generation Americans, including, as the Times article points out, younger-generation Sinai Temple congregants of Persian descent.  

And we know that many good, fair-minded people over the years, including Presidents Clinton and Obama, at one point opposed gay marriages and supported the Defense of Marriage Act (DOMA), which discriminated against same-sex couples having the same federal benefits and rights as heterosexual ones.  

Now they have changed their minds, or “evolved,” as Obama aptly put it.  

For me, the issue of gay marriage has no hint of “purple.” In this column I usually try to get past my “Blue State” liberal views and see things through the perspective of “Red state” conservatives. I can respect those whose religious convictions won’t allow them to accept lawful gay marriage. But I cannot respect imposing those irrational views on others.  

I emphasize the word “irrational” because there is simply no evidence justifying favoring heterosexual over same-sex marriages, that same-sex couples have less love or are more likely to be divorced, or certainly that same-sex couples make worse parents than heterosexual ones. Indeed, there is overwhelming anecdotal evidence to the contrary, including in my own personal experience with many friends who are part of a same-sex couple. 

Just read the majority opinion of Justice Anthony Kennedy in the Supreme Court opinion that overturned DOMA. Kennedy, who is no liberal and is certainly of “sound mind,” stated that the law’s discrimination in favor of heterosexual marriage has no rational basis and is therefore unconstitutional because it a “deprivation of the liberty of the person protected by the Fifth Amendment of the Constitution ... [and] due process and equal protection principles.”  

Kennedy has it right. Same-sex couples are entitled under our constitution to equal protection under the law. To allow otherwise would be, well, wrong. 

Just plain wrong. 

There’s no room for “purple” here.

Davis served as special counsel to former President Clinton and is principal in the Washington D.C. law firm of Lanny J. Davis & Associates, in which he specializes in crisis management. He is special counsel to Dilworth Paxson of Philadelphia and the author of a recently published book, Crisis Tales: Five Rules for Coping with Crises in Business, Politics, and Life (Threshold Editions/Simon and Schuster).